Hokies' Williams Set To Detonate Defenses
By Jason Bailey
The Virginia Tech football program has issued an APB for the encompassing Blacksburg region and adjacent counties.
The driving reason behind the advisory is fueled by a heightened urgency for the Hokies to anchor a thoroughbred running back in their loaded stable heading into the 2014 season. It tarries and remains a marquee priority.
Virginia Tech has not had the services of a formidable running back on its depth chart in a planetary alignment — or at least since the explosive David Wilson booked it for the New York Giants in the 2012 NFL Draft. Wilson's presence in Gobbler Country was missed almost before he played his final game in 2011.
Do the math, but you may need a calculator.
The Hokies haven't been able to lasso and groom a polished running back in four seasons. That's equivalent to a really long time in the ever-evolving cosmos of collegiate athletics, especially football. Oh, Tech has recruited and inked a cast of bonafide wannabes, hope-so's and when-I-grow-ups. While most of last season's offensive backfield cast didn't need a pacifier when it was on the field, the Hokies' ground game wouldn't have scared a Pop Warner defense.
Virginia Tech's featured back, Trey Edmunds. plodded along on 166 carries for 675 yards, averaging just over four yards, and often needing a compass to locate the end zone. Hokies signal-caller Logan Thomas surprisingly was the runner-up on the depth chart for the team's running game, logging 162 carries for 344 yards. Plagued by frequent injuries and the disease of chronic inconsistency, Tech experimented throughout the 2013 season with the battle-tested and unproven likes of J.C. Coleman (109 carries), Michael Holmes (70), Tony Gregory (64) and Martin Scales (52) fielding mop-up duty.
Extensive evaluations have been conducted and the diagnosis is in: Virginia Tech's ground-game transmission blew four years ago with the departure of Wilson, the legendary backfield Houdini. The Hokies have since averaged 3.2 yards per carry, posted an average of 119.8 yards on the ground last season and failed to reach 100 yards rushing in six games. The unit remains in a frustrating state of immobility.
I don't want to prematurely put anyone in a state of unsuppressed ecstasy, but there is a back in the house who will likely ignite the Hokies' one-dimensional offense. Enter Marshawn Williams, Virginia Tech's raved-about true freshman out of Pheobus High School in Hampton. The kid packs an imposing presence and a commanding physique on the turf, looking like a hybrid of former Tech standouts Greg Boone and Ryan Williams.
He has serious power in his legs and won't balk at the chance to truck defenders. Williams also has a nose for the end zone with downhill speed and balance that are off the charts while his cuts in traffic are assertive and polished. He is a four-star recruit who roared through his senior season of high school with 2,192 yards rushing and logged 30 touchdowns, including eight in one game. Virginia Tech's offensive coaches have raved about Williams' ability to juke defenders, not just power through them. The freshman, however, has already developed a reputation among his teammates as someone who you don't want to be in the way of when he has the football.
The physically imposing Williams has turned heads for being just as likely to dish out a punishing hit as he is to take one. Williams was credited in a game last spring with 11 broken tackles on 13 carries for an additional 30 yards. That kind of yards after contact from a true freshman is something that the Hokies haven't had in their depth chart since Wilson decided to wing it for the NFL two years early.
Williams is a bird of another feather who has alighted in Blacksburg. I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that rival ACC defenses are going to find employing strategic formations to confine this backfield Houdini a bit difficult. I'm putting the ACC on notice. It isn't if Williams will be dispatched into the Hokies' ground attack, but when he will be haunting opposing defenses. He promises to give scoreboard operators a workout.