It has been a tough week for Virginia Tech fans. First the team loses in heartbreaking fashion in the Sugar Bowl and then Cyrus Jones and Wes Brown choose not to come to Blacksburg. Now, running back David Wilson has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.
He set the single-season rushing record for the Hokies this year with 1,709 yards and was also a dynamic kick returner, an All-American in track and was named ACC Player of the Year this season. He was also one of the most happy, energetic and spirited guys to come through the program in a long time.
Tech will also lose backup running back Josh Oglesby to graduation, as well as four offensive linemen.
Obviously, losing all of those players on offense hurts the team’s chances both in the ACC and in the national championship hunt, but all is not lost.
When it comes to Virginia Tech football, people have to remember one thing: The Hokies have never had a great offensive line and have still put a plethora of running backs into the NFL. The last time they didn’t have a 1,000-yard featured back was in 2007 when Brandon Ore had 992, though there have been multiple years like 2010 when multiple backs had significant carries. You would have to go all the way back to 1997 and Ken Oxendine to find a featured back not get over 1,000 yards.
Fun fact: 2007 was also the last time Virginia Tech was in the national title hunt since playing for it after the 1999 season.
Third-stringer Tony Gregory has failed to impress in two years as a backup and will miss spring practice to repair his ACL, so the primary duties will likely fall to redshirt freshman Michael Holmes and true freshman J.C. Coleman.
Holmes rushed for 5,626 yards and 82 touchdowns in his final two years in high school and has 4.4-4.5 speed. Coleman is a smaller scat back with outstanding speed and a strong work ethic. He will graduate from high school early and play in spring practices.
Another name to keep an eye on is true freshman Drew Harris who is a 4-star bruising type back who will be in Blacksburg in the fall.
The Hokies will likely be using a running back by committee scheme but the play calling has become different over the course of the 2011 season. Quarterback Logan Thomas has developed into something special and while receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale will graduate, Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles and Dyrell Roberts who missed this year to injury can provide a potent passing attack.
Mike O’Cain and Bryan Stinespring will put the ball in Thomas’ hands more often which also means that whichever running back can block the best will likely see the most playing time.
If David Wilson had decided to return, Virginia Tech may be considered a dark horse for the national championship by members of the media but the Hokies should still be in that category even without him.