The question is no longer if Marshawn "Juice" Williams will contribute this fall, rather now folks are wondering how much will he play. In his Lane Stadium debut two Saturdays ago, Williams raised eyebrows with a stiff arm and powerful, yet shifty, set of moves. Last Saturday in Tech's second open scrimmage, he rushed 13 times for 66 yards. That performance raised expectations.
Frank Beamer had this to say Saturday about his true freshman's afternoon, "I thought he made a couple nice cuts. Planted his foot... And I think it's natural to him. I think that zone read play for him is very natural. He feels an opening and he hits it. You don't teach that a lot. I was impressed with him."
Juice made it clear to the media yesterday evening that one impressive outing won't separate himself from a pack of seven tailbacks trying to distinguish themselves this spring.
"I just had a good scrimmage. It doesn't say much of anything. If I can keep doing it constantly then it might say something, but that was just one scrimmage, so I just got to keep it going."
Williams is one of four tailbacks listed third on the depth chart, but when asked if he can tell where he fits in the pecking order, Williams replied, "Everything is spread out so equally, and competition is going so good for everybody. So there's no way to tell."
That's optimistic news for Tech fans hoping to see a running game resurgence this season. Juice's anything but juice-box-like size, plus his unique, imposing, controlled chaos running style would seemingly pair well with an offense wanting to control the ball and punish defenses between the tackles.
Pass protection was a stumbling point for another heralded Hokie running back named Williams. Ryan Williams took a redshirt year in 2008 after being unable to master blocking for the quarterback. Although, Marshawn claimed to know most of Tech's pass protection scheme.
"I kind of got it down. I'm pretty much there. Sometimes they throw some blitz in there that I've never seen before, but as far as overall, I'm good."
Even so, according to Shane Beamer Juice has to improve some before moving up a fluid depth chart.
"The thing I challenged Marshawn to do, and the reason I didn't have him higher is just finishing plays. You know playing full speed all the time when the ball is not going to him. When it's a pass, and he needs to cover downfield. We're continuing to harp on that, about the tempo and effort we want to play with every play."
Both coach and player noted understanding terminology was Williams' biggest problem at the moment.
"We've got about 8 different words that we use to get those guys to line up in an empty formation and move back to the backfield. And he would probably say his biggest challenge right now is just remembering where he lines in an empty formation to move back to the backfield. And if that's his biggest challenge, you know we're good. We can get the rest of it done."
As Marshawn put it, "Just getting used to the calls. That's really it, learning the plays better."
Repetition is the best cure for inexperience. Given Juice's talent and upside, for the last two weeks of spring practice I expect the ball to be in his hands often.