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Wilson Plays the Waiting Game

With his speed and athleticism, David Wilson gained attention and turned heads during preseason practices. And with a 165-yard rushing performance against Marshall on Sept. 12, Wilson appeared on his way to making a statement in his freshman season.

But since that game, Wilson has received only seven carries and netted five rushing yards. He did not have any carries in Saturday’s 34-26 win over Duke. So what happened to Wilson?

“David’s a freshman,” running backs coach Billy Hite said, “and when he just concentrated on football and the fall practices and didn’t have school and didn’t have exams and didn’t have to be in study hall and didn’t have about 10 other things on his plate – now that he’s got all this, it’s kind of slowed him down a little bit.”

Hite added, “Again, he’s an 18-year-old kid that has all this schoolwork to do, and it’s overwhelmed him a little bit right now.”

Wilson was one of the nation’s top recruits. He showed he could play immediately and the coaches decided he would not redshirt after Darren Evans, the Hokies’ leading rushing in 2008, went down in August with a season-ending knee injury.

But aside from the Marshall game, Wilson has been a non-factor. Although he said he was “going day by day,” Wilson also said it has been frustrating to sit out.

“They tell me my time will come, and I have to wait for it,” Wilson said of what the coaches have told him. “I talk to my family and my brother a lot about it. They give me encouraging information. I try not to be down about it. I take it as a learning experience.”

Wilson’s situation is not unlike the experiences of the Hokies’ other running backs and players who have had to bide their time. In fact, starting running back Ryan Williams was redshirted last year because he was a poor blocker and had trouble picking up blitzes.

But Wilson’s redshirt has already been burned. On Monday, Hite said the year was not wasted, telling reporters, “You guys are going to see David Wilson before the year’s over, I can tell you.”

“I told him now this is going to hurt you more than anything,” Hite said. “You can’t get down on this. When your time comes you have to be ready to play. You hanging your head isn’t going to get anything done.”

In recent games, Wilson has been unable to get moving the way he did against Marshall. A lightning-quick, explosive runner, he has at times appeared hesitant while approaching the line of scrimmage. He had three carries for minus-four yards against Nebraska on Sept. 19, which engulfed him with its strong defensive line.

Wilson said he has been running differently because he has been trying to break a big gain on each run in an effort to maximize his few carries each game.

“When you get the ball few times like that,” Wilson said, “you tend to, when you do get the ball, say, ‘I’m going to show them everything on this play,’ instead of knowing that you’re going to get another carry after this one.”

The No. 5 Hokies (4-1, 2-0 ACC) take on Boston College (4-1, 2-1) on Saturday.

By Mark Viera  |  October 6, 2009; 8:32 AM ET
 
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