The way the Virginia Tech Hokies entered the 2010 season looked pretty promising for their experienced offense. The way they finished the regular season seemed to show why.
They averaged over 30 points per game, had a senior quarterback in Tyrod Taylor at the helm—who took home ACC Player of the Year honors—and had a young stable of running backs who were the best in the conference.
I use the past tense because Taylor was a senior and thus VT will lose him to the NFL. But what VT was not supposed to lose was both of their starting running backs.
Yes, both of them have declared for the NFL draft.
Darren Evans was probably expected to leave for greener pastures, but just three days later, Ryan Williams declared his intentions to test the waters at the professional level as well.
Williams had two full years of eligibility left. He set the Virginia Tech single season rushing record in his redshirt freshman year with 1,655 yards. Through his two seasons, he garnered 2,132 yards and 30 touchdowns.
VT fans did not want to see this type of output leave Blacksburg this early.
Did he make the correct decision? Williams split carries all year with Evans and had he stayed at VT, he most likely would have split carries next year with David Wilson, an up and coming speedster of a running back.
I believe a few factors went into Williams’ decision to leave this year. Two of the bigger ones would be the fact that he will never be the featured back again at Tech. He was featured his redshirt freshman year only because of a devastating injury to Evans. And when given the chance to carry the load, Williams did more than impress, he shined.
Maybe the fact that he will not be able to shine anymore added to his decision to turn pro. I can’t blame him for that.
Another big factor might be this year's NFL running back class. It’s not very impressive. After Mark Ingram you have…yeah, not much. Williams, much like Evans, is projected to be taken somewhere in the third round, which is a pretty good chunk of change for a guy who only played two years of college ball.
If he were projected to be drafted in the seventh round or later, then I’d question this decision, but he might be making the correct choice here.
I say play the odds. A thin RB class and the fact that he will almost assuredly split carries next year with Wilson means that Williams is making the right call in turning pro this year. I wish him luck.
Now, where does that leave Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies?
Well I would argue that it doesn’t leave them in a bad spot at all. David Wilson is a very fast back with great ability. He has already proven that he can play with the big boys in the ACC. The question becomes can he carry the load all by himself the way Williams did his freshman year?
Wilson says he’s ready. He was interviewed upon hearing the news of Evans' departure and he was excited because this is the break he has been waiting for. VT always has a stable of great running backs and for him to get the opportunity to be the sole starter is unusual as of late. He said that he wanted to be the guy to carry the team on his back.
Well, you've got your wish, Wilson.
In addition to his cutting ability and elusiveness when hitting the hole and breaking into the secondary, his elite speed offers VT another option in the passing game.
Logan Thomas will most likely start for the Hokies at quarterback and standing a 6’6”, Thomas will not find it difficult to see Wilson sprinting open down field for a long touchdown pass.
Wilson’s speed gives the VT offense the ability to spread the defense and play a more west coast-style game plan with an empty backfield. But he also keeps the other team honest with his ball carrying ability.
I believe he will have a season much like that of Ryan Williams’ when he set Virginia Tech's single season all-time rushing record.
In 2010, Wilson split time with Evans and Williams and still he put up 619 yards rushing. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry with a long of 68 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
As a receiver, he was just a potent. He had 234 yards with an average of 15.6 yards per catch and four touchdowns. Plus, once he is through the line, he has breakaway speed. He won’t be run down from behind very often.
I foresee very good things in Virginia Tech’s future as far as running backs are concerned. As long as Wilson can stay healthy and make it to his bed check on time (he was suspended from the first quarter of the Orange Bowl against Stanford for missing curfew), Tech fans won’t have to worry about him having a monster year.
The only thing they will have to worry about is how soon he will decide to leave Blacksburg for the NFL.