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Virginia Tech-Boston College: A running back showcase

Word on whether a hamstring injury suffered last weekend will keep Virginia Tech sophomore running back Ryan Williams from playing Saturday against Boston College should come later today, but even if the Manassas native is unable to take the field there will be no shortage of talented tailbacks at Alumni Stadium.

As the Hokies demonstrated last weekend, their rushing attack doesn't suffer much when junior Darren Evans and sophomore David Wilson are in the game. Virginia Tech racked up 249 yards on the ground against East Carolina even though Williams was relegated to the sidelines by the middle of the second quarter.

Evans and Wilson, who played 26 and 24 snaps, respectively, combined for 209 total yards and three touchdowns. This week, both said the experience helped to reassure them of their talents.

Evans, who's returning from a torn ACL that kept him out all of last season, called his 91-yard showing a "confidence booster," and in terms of yards per carry, it was the most efficient game during his career with the Hokies. For Wilson, his 118 total yards may have been even more important since he hasn't had the opportunity to be a featured back in the running game since his senior year of high school.

"I got to show people what I have and also reconfirm it with myself," said Wilson who picked up an average of nine yards each time he touched the ball. "Not having carries, I wondered, ‘Can I still do some of those things?’ But getting out there was definitely a refreshment and I felt real good when I was out on the field.”

Remember, even though Williams set all those rushing records a year ago racking up 1,655 yards on the ground, Evans and Wilson have impressive pedigrees as well. Evans gained more than 1,200 yards his freshman season in Blacksburg, while Wilson was a top recruit being courted by Florida Coach Urban Meyer as the heir apparent to the versatile Percy Harvin before choosing Virginia Tech two years ago.

But some might say the top rusher in the ACC will be standing on the other sideline Saturday. Boston College's Montel Harris is averaging a conference-best 97.5 yards per game and already has 48 carries in the Eagles' two wins this year. Those numbers are a bit misleading, though, as Boston College's running game struggled in its 26-13 win over Kent State two weeks ago.

Still, Harris has a track record. He gained 1,457 yards and scored 14 touchdowns as the driving force for the Eagles offense. But when the Hokies demolished Boston College, 48-14, at Lane Stadium in 2009, Harris mustered just 43 yards on 11 carries.

In 2008, Harris gained only 61 yards against the Hokies, but the 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back wore down Virginia Tech late as Boston College pulled out a close 28-23 victory, a memory that hasn't escaped the Hokies' coaching staff.

"We couldn't tackle him at the end," defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. "He’s just a quality back, always finds a way to fall forwards. He’s not intimidatingly big, but he runs behind his pads ... They’re gonna wanna run the ball down our throat, there ain’t no doubt about it. I’m surprised they haven’t come out and said it."

That, though, is exactly the thought process going on up at Chestnut Hill this week. Coach Frank Spaziani was the Eagles' defensive coordinator before being promoted last season, and he's well aware of the dynamic rushing attack the Hokies will put on the field with or without Williams.

"This is a big-league running team, they’ve known how to run the ball ever since I’ve been coaching against them," Spaziani said. "I think they haven’t skipped a beat and they have three running backs, and maybe a fourth standing in the background."

As for my take on Williams, he didn't practice on Monday or Tuesday when reporters were allowed to observe the last 10 or 15 minutes of drills. My guess is Beamer's insistence on waiting until Thursday to announce his availability is pure gamesmanship. Hamstring problems are the type of injury that can go from nagging to serious with one misstep on the field. And with at least nine games remaining this season, and a stable of proven backs ready to fill the void, I think Williams sits this one out.

By Mark Giannotto  | September 23, 2010; 12:32 PM ET
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Who are George Masons running backs?

Posted by: sbf845 | September 23, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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