"We better be able to run it."

Virginia Tech has all the pieces for a rejuvenated run attack. Now it's time to put them together.

Raheem Blackshear figures as an edge and backfield threat for the Hokies. [Virginia Tech Athletics]

From the limited amount of media engagements Justin Fuente has participated in, I get the sense he feels good about the 2020 version of the Hokies. The last couple of seasons he took every opportunity to point out how young the roster was. And rightfully so, the turnover was stark. (Whether or not that justifies the results is a discussion for another day.)

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 season however, he gushed about his offensive line, confidently remarked that he could craft an offense around any one of his three quarterbacks, and said flat out he expects Tech to run the ball.

This was Fuente's response on TTL when Jon Laaser asked him, "How much comfort does it give you that this is a line that should allow you to do that (run the football)?"

"I feel good about that. We better be able to run it. We've invested a tremendous amount of time, played through some really young players playing on the offensive line. I think it took a dramatic step forward during the season last year, our running attack, and with the addition of new backs, I feel like we ought to be able to run the football."

Fire the pun cannons because Fuente took the ball and ran with it.

I'm a believer in measuring things in order to obtain context of the result. In this case it's expectations, and the fanbase and Fuente are aligned that there's really no excuse for Tech to stumble on the ground as it has done throughout most of his tenure.

Year YPC (Rank) Rushing SP+ Rank
2016 4.02 (T-96) 101
2017 3.86 (98) 81
2018 4.36 (67) 55
2019 4.05 (86) Not Published

(I long for non-sack rush yards and the 2019 SP+ rank, but what's available paints a clear enough picture.)

Fuente summed it up nicely, but to reiterate:

  1. The Hokies have t-e-n, 10 offensive linemen (including Brock Hoffman) that have started FBS football games.
  2. Tech leveraged the transfer portal like free agency this offseason and added veteran options to its running back room. Khalil Herbert has the skills to bang it between the tackles. Macro Lee is a powerful and decisive runner. Raheem Blackshear has earned unofficial August MVP honors; he's garnered the most buzz from Tech's camp. Fuente recently said he's, "talented, highly intelligent and rarely skilled" (that last compliment should be the tagline on top-shelf bourbon). He could play both tailback and in the slot (next-level jet sweep mode, engage).
  3. Any of Hendon Hooker, Braxton Burmeister, or Quincy Patterson bring a formidable run-threat behind center. Tech has all the pieces to stress all the pain points of a defense on the ground via its various quarterback run series.

So yes, we're all in agreement. Virginia Tech should excel at running the football this season and frankly any other outcome would be a failure.

Comments

I sure hope so. Feels like it has been years since a VT running back has been able to run through actual holes opened by the offensive line with anything remotely close to consistency. Have been hearing people say for years that the offensive line could be a strength this season. Some reason for hope with the veterans. Also remember watching the UNC game last year and it felt like the first time in I don't know how long that I had seen the offensive line actually open holes. But with all that said, I'm going to wait for them to prove it before I start to believe we will have a decent running game beyond the quarterback bulling his way through or making something out of nothing on a scramble.

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

Not to totally blow through your comment but I noticed your signature. What sort of science were you in and what sort of consulting have you moved into? I'm asking as an Oncology researcher by day that is working on their MBA at night

Hi Topenhagen. I was in biochemistry as an undergrad and then biochemistry and biophysics in graduate school, although I did my actual lab work in a pharmacology lab. Also oncology, studying the mechanism of anti-tumor drug resistance. Did a brief postdoc in hepatitis B before escaping (oops, I mean transitioning) out of the lab into market research and business consulting. Have been at 2 different consulting firms since then. One largely US domestic and one global. Would be happy to speak with you about transitioning out of bench science and into the business side. Consider it 1 of the 3 best decisions I ever consciously made in my adult life. Can you e-mail people directly through this group?

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

I must say I respect the hell out of what you guys are doing...that's good stuff well beyond my business degree that saves lives....keep up the good work!πŸ‘ŠπŸ»πŸ‘ŠπŸ»πŸ‘ŠπŸ»

HokieHighVPI03

Appreciate the sentiment but we all have our own paths that allow us to shape the world around us, hopefully for the better. Keep doing you!

That's definitely my intention, to move away from the bench. I've accomplished what I wanted to when I jumped into research (publications/conference circuits) and see myself using my MBA and lab experience to have a larger impact by helping others accomplish their goals and push their research forward in ways that are both efficient and reasonable. Too much money and resources are thrown at projects promising the world and delivering a globe (kind of on a soapbox here haha). I'd be happy to allow Joe to share my email directly to you (if that's even a thing) to talk further

I get the sense he feels good about the 2020 version of the Hokies

He also felt really good about the 2021 recruiting class...

This season (should it come to close to completion) is going to be wild. What if the RB room gets COVID, misses a game or two, then the OL room gets COVID, misses a game or two? My worst fear is that we finish around .500, and due to bizzare circumstances, the jury is still out on Fuente.

Twitter me

On the other hand, what if they have a good year?

The lack of a running game has been one of those things seriously hampering our offense.

I agree with both comments above. Nothing will surprise me this year. Everything will be different. Covid will have impact. Crowds, or lack thereof, will have impact. And, most importantly I think, the schedule for every ACC team has no room to breathe. There will be an unusual number of losses across the board. With that said, it seems a lot of weaknesses seem to be improved and previous strengths returning.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

The lack of crowd doesn't worry me. As a team that has a better road record vs. home record over the past 7 seasons or so, maybe an empty Lane will feel more like an away game...

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

That hurts my Hokie/VTCC soul more than anything else. Saturdays were for making NOISE. I totally support no fans in the stands, but I will mourn the missing collective reactions to big plays, bs calls, and school traditions.

Click here to destroy wall.

Lane will always be loud under normal conditions, but I do not enjoy seeing our Away record being better than our Home record. I don't know why that's the case, but I would like to start seeing us take care of business at home like we used to, noise or no noise.

VT Marketing Class of 2009
Current Roanoke-Hokie
Go Hokies!

It's the paper airplanes. No other explanation.

Click here to destroy wall.

Oh, to have the TerrorDome return...

HTHokie93

For real. The glory days of VT football were all about running the ball. It's been so long we've forgotten how big a difference a good running game can make.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Jet Sweep

Yes and....when we have a mobile QB that can run the ball we win games. A strong line should help open up some holes for a QB with some legs.

JP

This year being wild kinda goes without saying at this point. If your response to a football analysis article is "what if full position groups aren't allowed to play?" then what are we even doing here?

The line and backs have depth and experience this year. If a few guys miss games for any reason there shouldn't be a huge drop off.

If your response to a football analysis article is "what if full position groups aren't allowed to play?" then what are we even doing here?

I didn't really think this was a football analysis article; I interpreted this piece as a previewing/preparing for a final referendum on Fuente's coaching ability. I thought the last sentence made that particularly clear:

So yes, we're all in agreement. Virginia Tech should excel at running the football this season and frankly any other outcome would be a failure.

I think most would agree that the jury is still out on Fuente, and this is (supposed to be) the year that we finally determine if he's the right coach for us. I'm just suggesting that it would be frustrating if, due to circumstance out of his control, we weren't able to learn anything this year.

If a few guys miss games for any reason there shouldn't be a huge drop off.

OU already lost a full position group for 2 weeks this year. If it can happen during fall practice, it can definitely happen during the season.

Twitter me

It was my interpretation that this was about the current rosters potential ability to productively run the football. Also, if that happened to OU during the season it seems unlikely the next game would even have been played.

I think that if one room gets COVID, the whole team is quarantining and not playing.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

I would say that blaming players for getting sick is a little much, unless it comes out that there was just gross negligence when dealing with players with COVID. That is something that is out of his control and a variable that he has to deal with, but to blame him for other people getting a contagious disease is a little much.

If he goes out there and struggles with game planning or execution like we have seen before then by all means place all the blame on him. This is the season that counts for Fuente on the field, can he improve what he has done the years before.

I would say that blaming players for getting sick

Whoa, whoa, whoa I never said getting sick would be the players' faults. Just simply saying that this season was supposed to be judgement year for Fuente - this year he has all his guys, all his coaches, a rebuilt running back room, etc. It would be frustrating if, due to circumstances out of his control, we get to the end of the season, and still haven't learned anything about Fuente.

Twitter me

we get to the end of the season

If the season ends September 20th it's still the end of the season.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

He also felt really good about the 2021 recruiting class...

Yeah, but there's a lot of space between what Fuente considers a success for the 2021 class, and what the fanbase does.

There's much less gray area with judging the run attack.

As far as the COVID concerns, they're valid, but I think everyone understands that's the only plausible exception here, and at the very least it's repetitive to include that asterisk as it pertains to every single analysis/discussion of the football season.

He specifically said he was anticipating an "elite" class if I remember correctly. Maybe that doesn't mean a Clemson type of class, with which I'm OK, but it also doesn't mean another bottom tier ACC class.

Is coronavirus over yet?

The difference being that he actually has this year's players. He didn't actually have any of the recruiting class, he just thought he was doing well with the recruits, but with no guarantees. Kinda like saying - I feel pretty good that girl will go out with me vs I'm pretty sure the woman I'm married to will go on a date with me.

So we can expect 37 jet sweep/and or designed qb runs a game?

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
β€œI served in the United States Navy"

KCCO

I'm worried about Jerry Kill leaving. By all accounts, he was one of the driving forces in the running game improving last year. I am confident in all three quarterbacks to be able to run the read option effectively which is critical for FuCorn's running game. And who knows? Maybe we have the next Billy Hite in Adam Lechtenberg.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

If Adam lechtenberg is the next billy hite,we will be just fine. Billy knew rb talent, and had a back for every game plan

Billy knew running back talent, but he also knew how to make running backs good. The day Hite stopped coaching the running backs was the beginning of the end of our identity as a smashmouth football team.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

Pretty sure Hite said something to the effect of 'I don't do much coaching, the guys we have are just really good'

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You'd be hard pressed to find guys like Kevin Jones, Lee Suggs, Ryan Williams, or David Wilson on the roster these days. However, there were guys like Branden Ore, Mike Imoh, and Darren Evans who weren't big recruits that became very good. Ore was a .8111 composite running behind a bad offensive line in 2006. Imoh was a .8000 who set the school record for rushing yards until Evans broke it four years later. I think Hite was very good at teaching those guys how to see the field as a running back. JC Coleman had a similar build and skillset to Imoh but was rated much higher and didn't do as much as Imoh did.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

I agree with your point here but, would just like to note that statistically Coleman had at very least an equal career to Imoh.

You're right. I did not realize that. Imoh did only carry it 32 times in his first two years when he was behind Suggs and Jones. We had to play Coleman as a true freshman and sophomore because the other options were Michael Holmes (eventually kicked off), Tony Gregory (injured pretty often), and Martin Scales (more of a fullback than tailback). Not to take anything away from Coleman, though. He had an excellent ending to the 2014 season. Unfortunately it did not carry to 2015.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

I had a HS coach tell me when JC signed... my only issue with him, is that all you have to do is touch him, and he will go down or move directions.... He was not near the level of the RBs we were used to.

Yea, I hear ya. The thing is, given how inaccurate recruiting rankings were in the mid-2000's, it's tough to know if Ore, Imoh, etc were 'coached up' or just really well scouted. I imagine a combination of both. I also imagine Hite's comments are a bit humble/oversimplified. Whatever the case, hopefully we can get back to those kinds of rushing numbers.

Twitter me

Those are good examples, but if I were you I would just find their old Rivals profile when looking at players from that far back. 247 didn't exist and they have a lot of weird blanket grades attached to players as they attempted to retroactively account for those 2000's seasons.

However, I'm not really sure Darren Evans is a good example of this. He was a high 3*, and while I don't know why for sure, I think he must have just not been attending camps or scouts had speed concerns, or something like that. He was an ESPN RISE sophomore of the year 2004, a HS All-American by Parade and PrepStar magazines in 2006, and won Indiana's Mr. Football Award in 2006 after rushing for 2731 yards and 61 TD's. He was not really a hidden gem, at least not in the way we usually think of it.

I didn't know that about Evans. I was an elementary schooler at the time and am looking at a lot of this now. If I remember correctly, Evans didn't even become the guy until Kenny Lewis Jr got hurt right? And I think he was the leading rusher back in 2010 with Ryan Williams and David Wilson. All his high school accolades make sense now.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

Yep, Evans was a R-Fr. so he was splitting carries with KLjr heading into that season. However, I think I remember hearing that most people thought he would have become the guy regardless of injury at some point in the season. He was impressing during the offseason/preseason.

He did lead in rushing in 2010 as well, though that likely had more to do with RMFW hamstring injury, though Evans was a beast that year.

All true about Darren Evans. If I recall correctly I *think* that the knock on his was the level of talent he was playing against. Don't quote me but I seem to remember something like that.

I'm not familiar with Indiana HS football, but this could definitely be the case. He was a 3* and won the player of the year in state award his senior year, and Rivals had him as the 2nd best player in the State. That might tell a story about the level of competition.

That's called "being modest". Coach Hite knew how to coach running backs. He does not get enough credit for what he did for this program and being Beams right hand man all those years.

Gobble Till You Wobble

My tinfoil hat is that VT owes most of its success and subsequent decline to Billy

Recruit Prosim

We may never know, but it is my belief that Jerry Jill's impact has been over exaggerated. And, even if true, he had to have taught the staff a few things along the way right? I don't know, it just seems to me that the problems with the running game have been obviously more to do with the talent than the Xs and Os.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

I don't think it has been over-exaggerated necessarily. Kill had some issues with the way the offensive coaching staff gameplanned, and the offense, especially the running backs, seemed to be much better after Kill entered the picture. Was some of that Hooker? Yes. I don't think it can be understated how much Kill helped, though. I do hope the coaching staff took something from him, though.

Marshall University graduate.
Virginia Tech fanatic.
Formerly known as JWillHokieAlum.

Disagree. Kill was a P5 head coach. Brad Cornelson's first P5 job was VT.... Kill stated the offensive staff was terrible at breaking down film. He was a huge help in a short amount of time.

Seems like even one year would be enough to transfer a bit of that kind of skill.

How much is a bit worth?

Recruit Prosim

A half of a shave and a haircut.

Shouldn't a bit be only one half of a shave and a haircut?

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

A = 1

Oh yes, but it was shave and a hair cut, 2 bits. So one would only be a half of a shave + haircut ;-)

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

I think we are in (non) violent agreement. πŸ˜€

Thanks. I need to read better!

Recovering scientist working in business consulting

'Bout $3.50.*

Do we have a source for the Kill comment that our staff was terrible at breaking down film? Not that I don't believe you but I've never seen the genesis of that statement.

It was all over this site, twitter, etc.

It was likely 20% true and then blown out of proportion by the rumor mill. And I will say again, if Kill was getting in actual fights with staff, he was doing the opposite of what he was brought there for.

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

or, that WAS the reason he was brought in... there was certainly a fire lit by someone that helped with a major turnaround mid-season.

We also switched QBs which seemed to have a massive impact. It's not like the only thing that changed was that Kill got hired and then all of the same players played better.

Conflict is good for competitive organizations

Recruit Prosim

Yes, we read it on the internet, so it MUST be true.

I had never heard of this rumor until a couple weeks back (on this site). I did a little searching online and couldn't find anything to back it up. I would certainly love to read the source because it comes off as hearsay to me.

Edit: OP delivered. The story can be found if you lookup the thread discussing Kill leaving the team.

404 Page Not Found

Although your link did not work, I searched TKP for the particular thread per the URL that was visible in your comment and located the story. Thanks for indulging me DC.

Doesn't mean it's not true

Recruit Prosim

Correct.

Just not verified by a credible source.

With the amount of OL we have, the number of RBs we have, and mobile QBs - one might confuse us for gearing up for the Paul Johnson option attack scheme for this year.

All the pieces are in place for us to have a strong running game. We have QB's that can execute the RPO's, we have a long stable of RB's who collectively are diverse, we have 10 linemen who have started, we have 2 strong TE's, we lost the worst WR at blocking (Hazeleton). I'm still not convinced that Cornelson can call the correct plays so that is what can derail our offense. If we don't put up 35+ points a game this year then that is on Corny and he needs to go.

1-0 every week

While I agree with you about seeing a marked offensive improvement setting the bar at 35+ is quite an ask against an entirely P5 schedule. That would be ahead of teams I think of as pretty high scoring like Louisville, Baylor, and Oklahoma State who also had the benefit of playing some cupcakes last season. ~33 seems pretty reasonable to me and would put us around the top 25 in scoring offense last season.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Only 10 teams accomplished 35+ points against power 5 teams last season. Three of those teams only played 1 game against P5, UCF played 2. So realistically 6 teams. (LSU, OSU, Bama, Clemson were top 4, Oklahoma was 7th, WSU was 10th)

With that being said, we ranked 17th in the nation against p5 teams last year with 32.4 ppg. So a FG more a game with an expirenced line and QB isn't out of the realm of possibility. (We ranked 11th if you take out the teams that only played 1 or 2 P5 schools)

Thanks for this quick read. This got me juiced up for the season. Covid and health aside, my biggest concern for the offense is Fuente's ability to commit to a QB. You have to think that Hooker is the guy for the job, but what if the offense struggles through the UVA game. Fuente will have to feel tempted to look at Braxton or Quincy. I feel really good about the offense if we can identify a clear starter that has confidence.

I'm also really excited about the defense. It feels like they are in really good hands. Fuente even said he has some guys coaching whose "resumes exceed their current occupation". Hopefully they can mount a good campaign in year 1.

VT Run Attack


"rarely skilled" "next-level jet sweep mode"

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

If we can't run it with the backs, it's time for the annexation of Puerto Rico.
I mean, the line is supposed to be good. Right?

"Puerto Rico"??

Seven people haven't seen Little Giants.

We better be able to run it.

Understatement

We ought to be able to pass it as well.

I don't know what the record will be but this team should score a bunch of points. On paper, we don't really have any holes on offense.

Agree. It'll come down to two things: 1) QB play, we have the talent, just a matter of picking a starter and giving him enough chance to find his footing and confidence to command the offense and 2) offense should score a bunch of points as long as the defense plays well enough and doesn't continually put the O in bad spots and behind in games.

I trust Fuente to take care of #1 and I trust that the defense is in good hands with J-Ham, Teerlink, Tapp, and Claeys. I don't know what expectations I have for the defense, but I guess I trust they will play well enough to take care of #2 above.

there are always injuries and with covid likely increasing the number of players out from time to time, my gut says there are going to be some shootouts.

hoping we get to see a bunch of games and some exciting play

Yes, and I also think teams have probably limited contact/tackling drills to some degree. That could lead to a lot of poor tackling/rust. Hopefully not for the Hokies and just our opponents.

There better be holes on offense if we want to run the ball well!

We couldn't do that for shit last year until Jerry Kill came in and showed us how. That worries me.

Maybe that is part of the reason the Lech is now the RB coach. I know that we all were kind of surprised at the firing and then giving the job to him, but maybe he is better at the minutia of film breakdown and coaching.

Burden coached WRs at VMI and that's what Beamer hired him to do here. FU kept him because he was a decent recruiter at one point, but not near as good a WR coach as Wiggins- which is true as well- so Fu moved him to RB coach- not a wise move in the end.

Fu saw potential in Burden to grow as an offensive coach. Good position coaches who learn to do multiple positions advance. Fu tried to help him out.

Fu was hoping Burden could land some of those 757 4/5-stars, so he found a way to keep him on staff.

Ultimately, Burden couldn't reel in any of the 757 stars while simultaneously offering every 757 prospect with a pulse.

One of my biggest gripes with this team since 2016 has been our inability to produce a formidable rushing attack using the RBs. I hope that changes this season. I think getting good production out of our running game will do wonders for the rest of the team (defense included)

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

By my count, we've got 8 useable RBs on the roster, and that includes Tahj Gary and Jordan Brunson.

That leaves Holston, King, Blackshear, Herbert, Lee, and Wheatley. Lots of guys to get carries in. Based on our WR departures and newfound strength in the O-Line, I wouldn't mind if we became a more run-heavy team over the next year or two.

I just sit on my couch and b*tch. - HokieChemE2016

Everyone's been worried about the offense, but the defense will make or break the season imo.

Offense is clearly loaded but we also have 9 guys back on defense (would've been 10 With Farley). I am extremely worried about a DC with one year of P5 coaching experience. Personnel wise this defense should be lights out the next two years. Fuente's legacy here is riding on his bet on Hamilton

Hamilton better shoot his shot! amirite?

It's always darkest before the dawn ~ Thomas Fuller

He certainly shouldn't throw it away.

It's an unwritten law that it's my lunch pail. I've issued the challenge. If someone outworks me, they can get it.
Darryl Tapp

Amen. Covid is the number 1 story... a very close second is VT playing a game on defense without Bud Foster for the first time in 25 years.

I certainly hope our running game gets good again this year.

I have a shirt that reads "you can run your mouth but can you run the ball" that has a completely different meaning to it than it did when I bought it around 15 years ago. Its borderline cringe pulling it out of the closet lately.

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

Should have donated that one to good will the day after GT's 3rd string QB ran right through Bud for 121 yards in a game that decided the coastal.

I have that same shirt - used to wear it religiously for the Miami game, but yeah I have not for a while. Different time.

"We'll bring out the moonshine, start tellin' lies, and callin up the women..." Harry Hogge, Days of Thunder

All I have to say is after many years of "this is the year" claims revolving around the offense, I will believe when I see it, and even then I know I'm gonna be waiting for the shoe to drop with blown assignments, fumbles, and comments after to the effect of "it's just one guy here and there missing an assignment, but we'll be okay once we get that cleaned up."

Oh the usual refrain going back to the Stiney years has always been "we're just one block away from that play turning into a huge gain"

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty