Ryan Williams, superstar for Virginia Tech
From his flashy Nikes to his dazzling play on the field, running back Ryan Williams has fittingly played the role of star for Virginia Tech. In the offseason, in fact, he had "Superstar" tattooed across the front of his upper chest.
But with the Hokies participating in spring practices, the role Williams, a rising sophomore, will play in the 2010 season is lingering as one of the most intriguing questions. He is currently tied atop the depth chart with rising junior Darren Evans, who sat out the 2009 season with a knee injury.
Williams said last week that he was excited to play with Evans and not worried about how the pair might have to share the load.
"It's very exciting," Williams said of playing with Evans. "I was just excited for Darren. It feels great. We've got the backfield again."
In 2008, Evans set the Atlantic Coast Conference freshman rushing record (1,265 yards). But after Evans went down with a season-ending knee injury last August, Williams stepped up and stole the stage, rushing for a 1,655 yards in a decorated freshman season in which he was the ACC's newcomer of the year.
Now, with Evans healthy, the two players headline a backfield spoiled with talent. Billy Hite, the running backs coach, has a longstanding philosophy that the players, not he, determine who will the carries by performing on the field and earning the workload.
It has set up an interesting dynamic because, for now, neither Williams nor Evans seems particularly hung up their carries, and both seem genuinely excited to play with one another. They said they are close friends.
And for Williams, 2010 will be particularly challenging. He will be attempting to live up to the billing as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate and is heading into a year which could be his last in Blacksburg, because he could emerge as a canidate to leave early for the NFL draft.
Williams said he is back up to about 210 pounds, after he lost nearly 13 pounds last October with an illness that slowed him for a week. And he said he has not let the new found fame go to his head.
"I cherish this too much to let it go to my head," Williams said. "Same old Ryan."
He has a big 2010 season ahead of him. But with his new tattoo, Williams has already taken a step further in inking his legend as a Hokies superstar, for his play and his charismatic off-the-field manner.
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