What will Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams decide?
The waiting, as Tom Petty once said, is the hardest part. That's exactly the situation most Virginia Tech football fans (and beat writers) find themselves in as it pertains to whether running back Ryan Williams will follow backfield mate Darren Evans and declare for the NFL draft.
And contrary to one report, Williams hasn't made up his mind yet. Running backs coach Billy Hite said Williams met with him and Coach Frank Beamer for an hour on Thursday to discuss the looming decision.
"Right now, honestly, Ryan doesn’t know what he’s gonna do," Hite said.
Hite said Beamer gave Williams the phone numbers of several NFL general managers in case Williams wanted to ask them for advice. The NFL's draft advisory board told Williams he would likely be a first- or second-round draft pick if he decided to come out.
Williams is also consulting with family and his former coach at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, Loren Johnson, who once played for the Hokies. The deadline to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15. Williams said in a text message Thursday that he planned to make a decision on Sunday or Monday.
"He’s doing it the right way," Hite said. "He’s putting a lot of thought into it.”
One factor that Williams is now considering, Hite said, is playing time -- especially given Evans's decision to leave school early. After being the feature back when he set all those records as a freshman, Williams had to share the backfield with two others this year.
Though he accepted his role as the Hokies reeled off 11-straight wins, he didn't exactly embrace the three-man rotation. He gained just 477 yards on the ground this season.
“What I enjoy is playing and playing a lot, so if that says anything to you," Williams said last week before the Orange Bowl. "I’ve never been in a system where the most series you see is four. Never. So do I like it? I’m not gonna say I like it or I’m in love with it, but it works for the team and we win. That’s the bottom line, and I’m playing. That’s what I want to do; be able to contribute.
"But would I like to contribute more? Yeah. It works right now, so I can’t be mad at it. None of us are really complaining, but I bet I can speak for all of us and say we would like to be in there a lot more.”
But with Evans gone, as well as the graduation of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, next year's offense will run through Williams and sophomore David Wilson. With another big season, Williams could improve his draft stock even more.
Another factor that weighs heavily on Williams's decision is the nagging hamstring injury that almost kept him out of Monday's Orange Bowl. During his session with reporters last week, Williams was already speculating that the re-aggravation of the hamstring injury that forced him to miss four games earlier in the year would be held against him.
“I think that’s the one thing right now where you’re not sure where he stands," Hite said. "It’ll be certain people with certain teams; they’re gonna want to have proof that he can overcome that injury. And then there might be some teams that aren’t as concerned with it.”
So what will happen? I don't think anyone, Williams included, can say they know for sure. Hite said Williams only needs another year to get his degree, and that selfishly, he hopes he'll be back in Blacksburg next fall.
But as is the case with anyone making a life-altering decision that involves risk, I'm sure Williams's mind has changed every hour. At this point, all anyone can do is wait for him to feel confident enough to go public with a decision.
| January 7, 2011; 4:02 PM ET
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