Virginia Tech position preview: Running backs

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech is looking for more production on the ground this season.

The Hokies averaged 173.38 yards per game, a number in the middle of the pack nationally, but their 3.86 yards per attempt was well below average ranking 98th out of 130 FBS teams and second worst in the ACC (only Virginia’s 3.13 yards per carry was worse).

Deshawn McClease led the team in rushing as a third-year sophomore with 530 yards (4.91 yards per carry).McClease best performance of the season came in the Camping World Bowl against Oklahoma State when he rushed for 124 yards (6.9 yards per carry) in the 30-21 loss.

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“He provided a spark at time throughout the year but I’m really excited about his development from a physical standpoint to a mental and emotional and leadership role,” Fuente said. “Really been pleased about him, so it excites me about him moving forward.”

Quarterback Josh Jackson was also a prominent fixture of Virginia Tech’s running attack with 124 rushes for 324 yards, but the Hokies committed to distributing pretty evenly in the backfield with four running backs closing out 2017 with at least 70 carries.

Will Virginia Tech’s offense have a feature back this season? The Hokies aren’t ruling it out, but the game plan could be similar to last year’s focused on a deeper rotation.

“You’ve got a combination of guys that can roll through there and keep those guys fresh,” offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said. “It makes a big difference. I think probably our game plan to run the ball, run the ball, try to keep their offense off the field a little bit, and schematically that’s what fit the game plan also. Probably a combination of all those things.”

Running back Jalen Holston could be a player to watch having carried the ball 70 times as a true freshman with 226 yards. The former four-star recruit out of Stockbridge High School (Ga.) ran for 4,000-plus career yards in high school.

Former 1,000-yard rusher Travon McMillan left the team as a graduate transfer to Colorado before spring camp. McMillan rushed for 1,042 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2015, but his production declined each of the past three seasons on the ground. He remained a consistent threat out of the backfield in the receiving game catching double-digit passes all three years he spent in Blacksburg and seven career receiving touchdowns.

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