NCF Nation: Darren Evans

Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- In an effort to learn more about his players, Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer had each of them fill out a general form about where they’re from, their family, academics, and their hobbies and interests.

David Wilson filled out the latter with “acrobatics.”

“That was a first,” Beamer said with a laugh.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
Bob Donnan/US PresswireDavid Wilson will now get his shot at being the Hokies' primary back.
“Oh lord,” quarterback Logan Thomas said with a laugh when asked about Wilson. “He just has so much energy he doesn’t have a clue what to do with it.”

Beamer does.

Wilson, who claims to have once done as many as 20 back-flips in a row, runs a 4.29 in the 40-yard dash and is an integral member of Virginia Tech’s track team, will now get a chance to showcase his athleticism as the Hokies’ primary ball carrier. Following the early departures of record-setting running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams to the NFL, there are 10 fullbacks and running backs remaining on the roster, and only three of them -- Wilson, Josh Oglesby and Tony Gregory -- were recruited as scholarship players.

“I’ve heard of one player at a position leaving school early,” Shane Beamer said, “but in all my years, I’ve never heard of losing two guys like that with Darren and Ryan.

“It’s a concern,” Beamer said. “… For Oglesby and some of these fullbacks, it’s a heck of an opportunity for them. We’re going to have to cross-train some of the guys. Some of the fullbacks will have to know tailback and things like that. This spring is a concern and it’s major concern when you get into fall and we start playing games.”

Unless, of course, Wilson capitalizes on his potential and the depth behind him develops. He and Beamer watched a lot of film together of last season.

“As good as he was, and as electric as he was, I think there’s a lot of things that he can do better,” Beamer said. “We’ve talked about that.”

Going into this season, Wilson said he just wants the staff to know they have a “sturdy” running back.

“I definitely want to be the guy on the team where, if we’re in a tough situation, the coaches feel comfortable with having me on the field and know that I’m going to come through with a play,” he said.

Wilson has already made a name for himself with his game-changing plays as a kick returner, but this offseason he’s working on becoming a more complete back. Last season he was third on the team in rushing with 619 yards on 113 carries (5.5 yards per carry). He scored five rushing touchdowns, four receiving and two on kickoffs.

Not a bad start, but he knows the expectations are much higher this year.

“There’s only three scholarship running backs in there, and with me being the third-string last year, I’m definitely expected to be the man this year,” Wilson said. “I’m definitely ready. Since I put down my high school pads and picked up college ones I’ve been expected to have a strong role in college football. Now my opportunity is here. I have to take advantage of it.”

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
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The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

BOSTON COLLEGE (3)
  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
CLEMSON (7)
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
FLORIDA STATE (3)
GEORGIA TECH (3)
MARYLAND (3)
MIAMI (9)
NORTH CAROLINA (11)
NC STATE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling
VIRGINIA TECH (5)

Another 10-win season for Hokies?

January, 25, 2011
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There are plenty of reasons for concern at Virginia Tech, starting with a new quarterback and the early departures of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL.

But will the changes on offense keep the Hokies from their eighth straight season of at least 10 wins? It's the longest active streak in the country, as Texas' 10-win streak came to an end in 2010. USC's streak of seven straight from 2002-08 is not included because of vacated wins.

The Hokies stand alone, and they'll do it again in 2011 -- with a new quarterback.

The biggest reason for the vote of confidence is the manageable nonconference schedule. The Hokies should go 4-0 against nonconference opponents App State, ECU, Marshall and Arkansas State. Projected wins over Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest leave the Hokies looking for three more to keep the streak alive. Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College, Clemson and a bowl opponent will provide ample opportunities to do so.

The second reason they'll keep the streak alive is the staff's stability and proven ability to reload. No team in the ACC has won as consistently as Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the league. Considering the turnover throughout the rest of the league -- particularly in the Coastal Division -- there's no reason to expect that to change in 2011.
This morning we looked at the main recruiting needs for the Atlantic Division. Here are the priorities for each team in the Coastal Division:

DUKE

Offensive line: The Blue Devils will have to replace one starter in center Bryan Morgan, and it’s still a relatively young group, but with several redshirt sophomores on the roster, the staff wants to load up two grades behind them to fully stock the position for the future.

Defensive line: This has always been Duke’s deficiency, which means it will always be a priority to catch up and build depth. The Blue Devils will have to replace two starters in Wesley Oglesby and Patrick Egboh. Noseguard Charlie Hatcher will be a redshirt senior.

Cornerback: Duke only loses one starter, cornerback Chris Rwabukamba, but it’s another position that has been weak and needs better athletes.

GEORGIA TECH

Offensive line: The early departure of Nick Claytor to the NFL didn’t help the depth, but there were still several young players who gained valuable experience and others who redshirted to help the depth. While no true freshman is likely to make an immediate impact, the staff is still looking to build the numbers up front.

Linebacker/defensive line: The Jackets need to find more athletes who are suited for Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. Fast athletes who are versatile enough to play a hybrid role, with the ability to move in space, will be a priority in this class.

MIAMI

Quarterback: With Jacory Harris being a senior, A.J. Highsmith moving to defense, and Spencer Whipple struggling in what little time he has played, the position needs a boost. It didn’t help that Teddy Bridgewater reneged on his commitment.

Linebacker: This is a position former coach Randy Shannon had put an emphasis on building, and there are young players and depth, but it was also a veteran group in the 2010 two-deep, with mainly juniors and seniors.

Wide receiver: The upperclassmen did all of the work in 2010, with Leonard Hankerson leading the way. Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson and Laron Byrd will all be seniors. An influx of young talent is needed.

Defensive end: The staff is looking to improve the depth here, get stronger up front, and build upon the success from 2010. Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, and Micanor Regis will all be seniors.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tailback: Injuries depleted this group in 2010, and Anthony Elzy, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn were both seniors. Ryan Houston was able to redshirt and will return as a fifth-year senior, but the Tar Heels need more dependable runners and a foundation for the future.

Defensive line: The Tar Heels have to prepare for some departures, especially on the interior, where all four players on the two-deep roster in 2010 were juniors.

Secondary: UNC will have to replace three starters in the secondary this spring, and three backups this year were juniors. Because of the NCAA investigation, this is a group in which backups had to develop quickly, so there are some experienced younger players, but the group still needs to reload.

Tight end: The loss of Zach Pianalto and his backup, Ed Barham, leaves the position thin.

VIRGINIA

Offensive line: With starting right guard B.J. Cabbell gone, starting center Anthony Mihota a senior, and starting left guard Austin Pasztor a senior, the staff has to prepare for some departures. Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi are talented young players, but the rotation needs more of them.

Defensive line: End Zane Parr’s decision to leave early for the NFL draft hurt the position’s depth, and the Cavs will also have to replace John-Kevin Dolce at tackle. Three other players in the two-deep will be rising seniors, and with Virginia switching back to a 4-3 defense under Mike London, the Cavs have to rebuild up front.

Secondary: Cornerback is of particular concern, as Chase Minnifield will be a senior, and starter Mike Parker will graduate.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: The early departures of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL left David Wilson as the only tailback with any significant experience. Overall, the Hokies have four tailbacks on their current roster.

Defensive line: The Hokies will have to replace redshirt senior starters Steven Friday and John Graves, and starting left end Chris Drager will be a redshirt senior this year.

Wide receiver/tight end: Starters Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale will be seniors, and tight end Andre Smith will graduate.

Secondary: Half the players on the two-deep roster against Stanford were either juniors or seniors, and the Hokies will have to replace rover Davon Morgan and cornerback Rashad Carmichael.

What are they thinking?!

January, 14, 2011
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Maybe I'm the one who's a little off. I've got plenty of friends, family, colleagues -- and readers -- who can vouch for that. But ...

This has been a curious offseason in the ACC:
  • Two coaches with winning records, clean programs and bowl-bound players were fired. North Carolina's Butch Davis, who is still tangled up in an NCAA investigation that derailed the season for at least half his starting lineup, continues to coach.
  • Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a "business decision" to fire the ACC's Coach of the Year and replaced him with the Big East Coach of the Year.
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney fired his young offensive coordinator and hired one with one year of collegiate experience. He fired a running backs coach and replaced him with a former receivers coach who has never coached running backs.
  • Miami coach Al Golden hired an offensive coordinator -- Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch -- with the same amount of collegiate experience as Clemson's new coordinator, and even most NFL experts don't know a thing about him. (And P.S., that one season Fisch was Minnesota's offensive coordinator? The Gophers ranked No. 111 in rushing offense, No. 109 in total offense, and No. 100 in scoring offense).
  • Wait, Miami hired Temple's coach?
  • Boston College has a chance to inject some life into its offense, but instead it is more likely to promote somebody from within as its offensive coordinator.
  • Three players -- Georgia Tech offensive tackle Nick Claytor, safety Jerrard Tarrant, and Clemson running back Jamie Harper have all decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft. If you're not a first-round pick, stay in school -- unless you're Darren Evans and have a wife and kid, or some other special circumstance. If any of those guys do, I apologize because I'm not aware of it.

Am I the only one really scratching my head over these moves? Now, I could be wrong and all of these decisions and hires might raise the ACC to unprecedented heights. Two new head coaches, four new offensive coordinators -- maybe they'll be just the spark the conference needs to push it into national relevance. Maybe all of those unheralded NFL hopefuls will go on to have long, lucrative professional careers and donate to my kid's college fund.

Right now, though? One word comes to mind: Gamble.

Ryan Williams to enter NFL draft

January, 9, 2011
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Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams, who had two years of eligibility remaining, will enter the 2011 NFL draft, the school announced on Sunday. Williams declined to have a news conference, and coach Frank Beamer was at the annual coaches' convention and unavailable for comment.

“It came down to what I felt like was the best decision for me,” Williams said in a prepared statement. “When they say you have the potential to be a first rounder, that’s something that’s hard to pass up. This has been my dream since I was six, and I’ve never wanted to do anything else. This is an opportunity to help out my family and especially my brother."

Even though Williams has the potential to be taken in the first round, he might also go in the second. That's why this decision came as a bit of a surprise to me. Because he was injured this year, and because he conceded several times that he would've liked more carries and thought he could do more if given the chance, I thought he'd return to boost his stock with one more healthy season. These guys know what's best for them, though.

On Thursday, leading rusher Darren Evans also announced he would enter the NFL draft. Losing both backs, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor, will mean a significant rebuilding year on offense for the Hokies. Even with David Wilson returning -- and many will tell you he's got the most potential of the three -- there will be a learning curve. You're talking about a backfield that was held to just 66 yards rushing in the Discover Orange Bowl with all of its talent.

It's got a long way to go without it.
Virginia Tech fans might want to take a cue from Darren Evans -- former running back for the Hokies -- and leave Ryan Williams to make his decision in peace.

Evans announced his decision to leave early for the NFL draft in a 3 p.m. teleconference today, but Williams has yet to do so. Evans said he's not pestering his teammate about his decision.

“I understand what he’s going through, and as a friend I’d rather not be bugging him about it, because I know enough people are,” Evans said. “Just today I’ve had a gazillion phone calls and texts from different people. I appreciate everybody’s concern, but I know he’s getting just [as much] if not more because of the type of player he is. I’ve been leaving that side of our friendship alone until he makes a decision. Then I’ll be there for him.”

Hokies' running game stifled

January, 4, 2011
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MIAMI -- They hadn’t even left the locker room yet following their 40-12 loss to Stanford, and Virginia Tech running backs Ryan Williams and Darren Evans were already facing questions about their possible futures in the NFL.

Both had turned in their paperwork to the NFL advisory board to find out where they might be chosen in this year’s draft, and both had already heard back. Williams said he was projected to be a first or second- round pick, and Evans said he was a fourth-round prospect, possibly higher. They plan to hold a joint news conference in the next few days announcing their decisions.

And yet despite the NFL talent in that loaded backfield, Virginia Tech’s three-headed running back rotation, that also includes David Wilson, went nowhere fast against the Cardinal defense. Evans compared it to an arm wrestling match -- one in which the Hokies got outmuscled and pinned down for a meager 66 rushing yards.

Total.

“I thought coming into the game that we would be the more physical team, because that’s just the way that we play,” Evans said. “But they showed us up. The whole game, from start to finish, they were in our tails. It’s a tough one to swallow. It’s kind of like an arm wrestling match. You face up with somebody, and either you’re going to bring their arm down, or they’re going to bring yours down. They definitely brought it to us.”

It was a humbling experience for the nation’s No. 18 rushing offense, which entered the game averaging 208.92 yards per game. While there was 70 yards of lost yardage thanks to eight Stanford sacks, the Hokies finished with an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Evans led the team with 37 yards. Williams had four.

Virginia Tech was beaten soundly up front, and the offensive line had no answer, as Stanford moved its defensive front almost every play. Both Evans and Williams said Stanford was more physical.

Williams said Stanford prepared better, played better, but the worst part?

Williams said the difference in the second half was the Hokies gave up.

“That’s not like Virginia Tech, at all,” he said. “I think we just lost it in our hearts to go out there and play. They wanted it more than we did. So that’s what happened.”
MIAMI -- There are no lineup changes for Virginia Tech, other than the ones you already know about -- Darren Evans starting at tailback, and former walk-on Jack Tyler will get his first start at mike linebacker with Bruce Taylor sliding over to the backer spot.

It will be an unusual rotation at linebacker, as Taylor started all 13 games this year at the mike spot and will replace Lyndell Gibson, who started all 13 games at the backer spot, but was injured in the ACC championship game. Tariq Edwards will play backer as well, allowing Taylor to move back to the mike spot during the game. Taylor had said earlier this week he couldn't ever remember another time he had played two positions, but he was eager to try it.

Stanford had no lineup changes, but offensive guard James McGillicuddy, who likes to switch jerseys to keep things interesting, could be wearing No. 11 Monday night. Just look for the 307-pound guy moving around back there.
MIAMI -- Virginia Tech fans are out in full force and they were tailgating outside Sun Life Stadium about four hours before kickoff. Hokies fans have been spotted all over South Florida the past few days, and even started the "Let's go ... Hokies!" chant one night at a local restaurant. It's still too early to tell how many Stanford fans have made the trip, so right now, it just feels like a Virginia Tech-Miami game. Without Miami. That, of course, is another story.

Each team's captains will meet former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, the game's honorary captain, during pregame, where he'll participate in the coin toss. Virginia Tech's captains are John Graves, Davon Morgan, Andre Smith and Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies will be wearing orange helmets for what's believed to be the first time in school history.

Running back Darren Evans will start at tailback, but Ryan Williams, who has a sore hamstring, is expected to play after being limited in practice most of the week.

Virginia Tech has come full circle this year. The Hokies started their season on a Monday night, on ESPN, at a neutral NFL stadium against a top five opponent and will end their season the same way. There's a lot on the line for both Stanford and Virginia Tech Monday night, but here's a look at exactly what a win would mean for the Hokies:
  • They'll become the first ACC team to lose its first two games and win the rest.
  • They'll be the fourth team in ACC history to win 12 games in a season.
  • A 12-game winning streak would be the longest single-season winning streak and the second-longest winning streak in school history.
  • The 12 wins would be the most in school history for a single season.
  • The senior class would finish as the winningest four-year class in school history at 43-12.
  • The Hokies would have won bowl games in three straight seasons for the first time in school history.
A matchup between two blue-collar teams awaits in the Discover Orange Bowl on Monday night from South Florida. Virginia Tech has been in BCS games before. Stanford not so much. But this has been a special season for the Cardinal. They have won a school-record 11 games and seven straight -- their longest winning streak since 1991. Two big questions surround the Cardinal heading into this game -- will coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Andrew Luck return next season? Much speculation has centered around Harbaugh, whose name has surfaced repeatedly in places other than The Farm.

WHO TO WATCH: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. It's not a surprise he is the player to watch. The Heisman finalist became the first sophomore in school history to throw for more than 3,000 yards this season. He also set the single-season record for touchdown passes with 28. His two-year totals are incredible -- 5,626 yards and 41 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 24 career games. In his past seven games, Luck has completed 76 percent of his passes for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. There is no question Virginia Tech is going to have to slow him down to have any shot at winning the game. Owen Marecic is another player to watch. He starts at fullback and inside linebacker. Talk about a throwback player. Marecic has four touchdowns and 45 tackles this season.

WHAT TO WATCH: Stanford run defense vs. Virginia Tech's triple-threat. The Hokies present problems with their depth at running back, even with David Wilson suspended for the first quarter for missing a team curfew. They have the No. 18 rushing offense in the country, averaging 208.9 yards per game behind Wilson, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Williams has practiced sparingly this week but is expected to play. The first priority for Stanford will be to slow down the run. The Cardinal rank No. 24 in the nation in rushing defense. Watch for Chase Thomas, who leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss.

WHY WATCH: It’s not often folks on the East Coast get to watch Stanford play. This has been one of the best seasons in school history, and could be the finale for Harbaugh and Luck. But more than anything, Stanford is a fun team to watch because of its versatility on offense and its smashmouth defense. Play a fun game as you watch and count how many different offensive styles Stanford ends up running.

PREDICTION: Stanford 37, Virginia Tech 24. The Cardinal have the edge at quarterback and present a more balanced attack because of that. It’s going to be hard for Virginia Tech to keep pace with an offense that has averaged 40 points a game.
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.

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesRyan Williams missed four games after suffering a hamstring injury against East Carolina.
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.

[+] EnlargeDarren Evans
Elsa/Getty ImagesVirginia Tech's Darren Evans has 139 carries for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
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.



Blocking key for Hokies' backs

December, 31, 2010
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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- When it comes to offensive success against Stanford's defense, Virginia Tech's running backs are prepared to do more than just run.

They want to give ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor enough time to make something happen.

“When I watch film, I don’t really pay attention to [the whole defense]," said Hokies' running back Ryan Williams. "I treat every defense the same and my job really -- when I watch film -- is to protect Tyrod [Taylor] when it comes to blitzes and who I pick up and [which players that will be]. That’s the biggest thing, because I run the ball and every defense is going to play you differently depending on how you run the ball and things of that sort. But they are going to do their job in terms of defending the run, but my job is protect Tyrod and the running comes natural. That is just me using my vision, picking the holes and seeing where I can go.”

Running back Darren Evans compared Stanford's defense to Boise State's in that it is fundamentally sound, and praised the linebackers' ability to get to the ball.

“It can be tricky in the passing game, identifying the fronts," Evans said. "I might have to stay in more to protect Tyrod [Taylor] so he can have more time to throw."

Video: Virginia Tech's Darren Evans

December, 30, 2010
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Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans talks about facing Stanford’s defense.

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