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Ryan Williams, Coach Billy Hite talk about Virginia Tech's running back rotation

By Mark Giannotto

It became quite obvious as Thursday night's game against Georgia Tech went on that running backs coach Billy Hite had a simple rotation in mind for his three dynamic running backs. Junior Darren Evans started the game and played one series, then sophomore Ryan Williams took his spot on the second series and, finally, sophomore David Wilson got in on the third series.

When the Hokies took the field for their fourth series of the game, Evans was back in the ballgame, followed by Williams again and then Wilson. Simple enough, right? Well, apparently not so much.

After Williams played the first series of the second half, he never did get back into the game. He finished the contest with seven carries for 30 yards and the Hokies' first touchdown, but almost all of that came in the first half. He was in for just one series and had just two carries in the second half.

After Monday's practice, Williams called his lack of playing time after halftime a "misunderstanding." Hite, though, had a different assumption.

“Ryan, I honestly thought at that point in time he was cold and I thought he took himself out of the game," said Hite, who has taken a careful approach with Williams working back into form from a slight tear of his right hamstring. "It was his rotation next. I started him in the second half; he took the first series. Darren took the second series, David took the third series and then it was back to him. ... I told him all along, you know your body better than I do. If you feel like it’s pulling, if you feel like it’s bothering you, take yourself out. He didn’t tell me, but Darren went back out for the series, so I figured that’s what happened to him."

When asked about it Monday, Williams didn't get into detail as to why he didn't come back into the game. He did, however, say his hamstring "felt good, I didn't feel it all game." If the Hokies had stuck with their rotation, it should have been Williams instead of Evans on the fourth-quarter touchdown drive that gave Virginia Tech its first lead of the game.

So what really happened to Williams in the second half? We may never know, because it seems if Hite and his star pupil have communicated about the situation since Thursday, they aren't revealing the specifics of that conversation to the public.

But any talk of a running back controversy Monday was quickly dismissed by both coach and player. In particular, Williams seems perfectly content to split carries in a three-back system with Evans and Wilson, especially because he still "can't reach my top end speed like I want to" because of the hamstring injury.

“The thing about me, I haven’t been the number one guy since middle school," Williams said. "I split carries from ninth to 12th grade, so I’m used to it. I’ve never been a part of a three-back system, but when you got Darren Evans and David Wilson who can contribute, why not put them on the field? For a guy to have 4.2 speed -- [Wilson] can probably run it in his pads -- if I were a coach, I’d put him in, too. You got Darren Evans, why not?

"We can all be fresh, we can prevent the chance of being hurt with running the ball so much or being in the game so much, so it helps out. With Darren having the season he already had, and me having the season I already had, we’ve already proven ourselves. I really feel like this is David’s turn, and he’s doing that. Once he becomes the premier guy, has to tote the rock 20, 30 times a game, he’ll prove himself more than just getting the limited amount of carries he’s been getting because we’re using a three-back system.”

Williams added that he doesn't envision being 100 percent the rest of the season, but his goal at this point is just to contribute and help the Hokies continue their winning ways.

The injury, though, may have changed Williams's outlook on the NFL. Many assumed he might leave Blacksburg after this season because he's a redshirt sophomore, and therefore eligible to enter the NFL draft.

I'll have more on this in tomorrow's paper, but when asked about his future Monday Williams said, "I would love to come back and play in Lane Stadium for another season."

By Mark Giannotto  | November 9, 2010; 9:36 AM ET
 
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