Numerous times this season, Virginia Tech has gotten little, if any production from its backfield. But just as he showed in his first collegiate game, redshirt freshman running back Trey Edmunds was showing he still could get it done, in the regular-season finale at Virginia.
Edmunds rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries and caught a 26-yard touchdown pass, before breaking his leg in the fourth quarter. Just as in that season-opener against Alabama, the Hokies enter the Sun Bowl with plenty of question marks as to who will be the primary ball-carrier.
The default answer is sophomore J.C. Coleman, but it won't be up to him alone.
"These next couple of weeks will be big, not just for JC but these other guys," running backs coach Shane Beamer said. "JC's the guy going into it and he needs to continue to practice well and earn that position and keep that position going forward. After that, Joel Caleb, Chris Mangus and Jerome Wright are the next three guys. Mangus is a guy that really practiced well the last couple of weeks of the season, specifically going into the Virginia game. He had a great week of practice, had some explosiveness to him."
And for an offensive line that's also struggled to protect and create running lanes, whether it's Coleman or any of the other running backs, the onus is still on them to try to pave the way.
"It doesn't really change what we do or how we block," offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. "I've got a lot of confidence in JC and I think had he not had the injury bug earlier in the year, as he did, he would have had a different type of year. But honestly, I'm looking forward to seeing him carry the ball a number of times and I think he'll have a really good game. I don't think it necessarily changes anything that we'll do, I think it just gives him a bigger opportunity and I'm looking forward to that."
Coleman certainly doesn't have a lock on the starting spot. And though he has a week and a half to help his case, his other backfield mates could see some time.
"Joel is a guy that got banged up against Maryland and isn't a hundred percent yet, with a little leg injury," Beamer said. "He'll be fine for the bowl, but we just haven't been able to do much with him the last couple of Saturdays. And Jerome is a guy with some size, that when we signed him, thought he could be a fullback, thought he could be a tailback. He's played both, he's practiced at both throughout the season and he's a guy that gives you some size as well. UCLA is really good, big and physical with their front seven. JC can't play the whole game if JC's the guy. You need to spell him. And you certainly need some size in there from a pass protection standpoint."
The Hokies will need whoever can get the job done.
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