Ryan Williams has been popping up on the college football radar this year as one of the top young players to watch. Through seven games this season, Williams has rushed 140 times for 834 yards and 10 touchdowns. That’s six yards per carry and 119 per game.
While the Hokies’ loss to Georgia Tech cooled the talk of a Heisman campaign this year, if Williams continues his stellar performance he may pull in some votes. He will surely be on the committee’s mind in 2010.
Williams runs with the power of former Tech great Lee Suggs and has a similar nose for the end zone. He also has the big-play ability and the excitement factor of Kevin Jones, which is interesting because next season Williams will deal with a similar situation to that shared by the great Tech tandem.
In 2002 Suggs was returning from a torn ACL suffered in the 2001 season-opener. During his absence, the Hokies found out just how good Jones was. As a true freshman, he ran for 957 yards and five touchdowns.
With Suggs and Jones both healthy in 2002, Virginia Tech billed them as “the Untouchables” in a sort of dual awards campaign complete with shirtless promo shots.
Suggs came back with 1,325 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns while Jones had 871 yards and nine touchdowns. The two backs were able to coexist and three times during the year both were able to amass over 100 yards in the same game.
Next season, Darren Evans will return to the Hokie backfield and will take carries away from Williams in similar fashion. As is the custom of Virginia Tech running backs coach Billy Hite, he’ll get both players plenty of carries to keep them fresh and will stick with the “hot hand” during games.
There’s also Josh Oglesby who has proven to be a decent option in the rushing attack and the exciting, but raw, freshman David Wilson. Add quarterback Tyrod Taylor into the mix, and there are a lot of other players who will be looking to run the football.
The Hokies expect to have another excellent team next season. They will have plenty of talking heads singing their praises, and all that attention means the Tech running backs will get plenty of publicity.
Honestly, I think it’s far more likely for someone other than Williams to win the Heisman next season. In the ACC Jacory Harris at Miami has an excellent shot, and there are plenty of legitimate candidates across the country.
With that said, Williams has as much of a shot as anyone.
Despite having to share carries, Williams can still make enough highlight-reel plays to turn some heads and get people talking. With the logjam at tailback for the Hokies, they may even be looking at multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons. More than enough to cause a few blips on the radar screen.