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Team over self for Hokies' running backs

1/1/2011

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The names of the different offensive packages that incorporate Virginia Tech’s trio of running backs are aptly named for the workhorses of the Hokies’ offense.

There’s the stallions package, where two running backs are in the game at the same time, and the pony package, which again uses two tailbacks but a different combination of them.

“We spread the wealth of our offense this year,” running backs coach Billy Hite said.

It’s much easier to do that when there are three tailbacks with NFL potential to work with. Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson have combined to give the Hokies the No. 18 rushing offense in the country at 208.92 yards per game heading into Monday’s Discover Orange Bowl against Stanford. One of the biggest questions facing Virginia Tech this season was how the coaching staff would divvy the carries and make use of the depth at the position, and that has since been answered with all three receiving at least 100 carries this year. While they would have liked to get more carries, both Evans and Williams said the team’s 11-game winning streak takes precedence.

“What I enjoy is playing, and playing a lot, if that says anything to you,” Williams said. “That’s what I enjoy. I’ve never been in a system where the most series you see is four. Ever. Do I like it? I’m not going to say I like it or I’m in love with it, but it works for the team and we’re winning, so that’s that bottom line and I’m playing. That’s what I want to do and be able to contribute. But do I feel like I could contribute more? Yeah. It works right now. I can’t be mad at it. None of us are really complaining, but I bet I can speak for all of us when I say that we would like to be in there a lot more. But we’re not. So, it’s cool.”

Williams, who missed four games this year after suffering a hamstring injury against East Carolina, has practiced sparingly this week and will be a game-time decision, but Hite said he expects Williams to play. Wilson will miss the first quarter as punishment for not being in his hotel room by the 1 a.m. curfew on New Year’s Eve.

Even when Hite’s rotation has been thrown a curveball, there’s enough talent at the position that the Hokies can actually afford to be a man down. Evans, who missed all of 2008 with a torn ACL, leads the way with 139 carries for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns. All of them average at least 50 yards per game.

“Winning takes away the selfish part of it, but the way that we thought it was going to go, it is a lot different,” Evans said. “I would’ve like to have more carries, but I’m also really blessed just to be out here again, to come off the injury like I did and perform like I did, I can’t complain and I won’t just for that fact. I do feel blessed to be playing the way I’m playing right now.”

Evans is a powerful back with speed, but coach Frank Beamer said Wilson is the fastest player he’s ever seen on the field. Williams is a combination of the two, but not quite as big as Evans. Hokies fans should enjoy them all in the Discover Orange Bowl, because it could be the last time they’re on the field together. Evans and Williams have submitted their paperwork to the NFL to find out more about their draft status, and Hite said they could find out as early as today.

“All three of them have a bright future down the road in the NFL, whether it’s this year where we lose them or next year,” Hite said. “It’s a decision they have to make, and their families have to be involved in it. Darren’s a special situation being a husband and a father. If the minimum is $400,000, that’s still a heck of a lot of money if he’s not even drafted until the late rounds, but I think he would be drafted higher than that. It’s their decision and we’ll do everything we can to help them.”

After all, all three of them have done plenty this year to help Virginia Tech.