2005 Preview: The Tailbacks and Fullbacks

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Unlike last year, running backs coach Billy Hite has a
full stable of his “Stallions” heading in 2005. Running back was a big
question mark for the Hokies at the start of the 2004 season. Cedric Humes broke
a bone in his leg in spring practice and was not 100% at the start of the
season. Mike Imoh was serving a three game suspension. Hite also had to replace
the dependable Doug Easlick at fullback. This year, Hite doesn’t have such
problems.

VT
returns Humes and Imoh, co-starters in 2004. Imoh returned to the lineup for the
NC State game one year ago and gave the Hokies a tremendous spark. He was
injured in the Maryland game late in the year, but luckily for Tech, that injury
coincided with Cedric Humes regaining his previous form. The two backs combined
for 1,325 yards in 2004. If both can stay healthy in 2005, they could produce
even more.

Hite also has the luxury of having two talented r-freshman
who can play in George Bell and Branden Ore. Both players will have to wait
their turns behind Humes and Imoh, but both may be too talented for Hite to keep
on the bench as well.

At fullback, Jesse Allen returns after assuming the
starting role in the middle of the 2004 season. Allen didn’t see as much
playing time as traditional VT fullbacks, with the coaching staff opting to use
more two and three tight end sets to take advantage of the Hokies’ depth at
that position. Carlton Weatherford and incoming freshman Kenny Jefferson will
battle it out for the #2 spot.

Now let’s take a look at each player, beginning with the
tailbacks.

Cedric Humes, r-Sr., 6-1, 233

I expect Humes to be Tech’s starting tailback for 2005.
Humes is a big, powerful tailback with good straight-ahead speed. He also has
better cutback ability than people give him credit for. Humes rushed for 605
yards on 4.7 yards per carry in 2004, scoring five touchdowns.

Mike Imoh, Sr., 5-7, 195

If Humes is thunder, Mike Imoh is lighting. Imoh is a
quick back that is hard to tackle, plus he has more power than one would
imagine. Imoh holds the Virginia Tech school record for most yards in a game
with a 243 yard performance against UNC last season. Imoh and Humes provide a
great complement to each other in the backfield. Imoh can also be used as a slot
receiver and is a good option to throw to out of the backfield.

George Bell, r-Fr., 5-10, 221

Bell is the most physical runner of Tech’s tailbacks. He
doesn’t possess great speed, but he is extremely tough to tackle. He is also a
good pass blocker for a player his age, which is why he currently ranks ahead of
Branden Ore on the depth chart. Bell is a very mature player for his age. He had
a terrible knee injury in high school that forced him to miss parts of two
seasons, but if he can continue to overcome that he can become a bell cow for
Billy Hite.

Branden Ore, r-Fr., 5-11, 207

Ore is a back that has the potential to become a very
special player for the Hokies. He is very fast, has exceptional cutback ability,
and shows good vision. At this point, he must show more maturity if he wants to
play for Tech this fall. He must work hard to become a better blocker and know
his assignments. If he does this, he can be a player who can make some plays for
Tech this season.



And now we’ll take a look at returning fullbacks.

Jesse Allen, r-Jr., 6-0, 244

Allen is an impressive weight room warrior who is a former
walk-on, just like many of VT’s former starting fullbacks. Allen is extremely
strong and fits the role of a traditional fullback, but he must continue to work
hard to transition that strength to his play on the field.

Carlton Weatherford, r-So., 5-9, 226

Weather is yet another walk-on fullback. An extremely hard
worker, Weatherford has been mentioned by Billy Hite as a player who is a major
candidate for playing time in the future. He has had a couple of injuries that
have set back his development.

Newcomers

Virginia Tech signed a very impressive duo of backs in the
class of 2005. Elan Lewis, a 5-8, 210-pound tailback, was the #2 player
in the state of Virginia in 2005. He is a very talented running back but will
redshirt in 2005 because of the wealth of talented players ahead of him.

Kenny Jefferson is a fullback from Maryland who Frank
Beamer says is the best fullback that he has ever seen on film. Jefferson is an
impressive looking athlete, and he has a great chance to see the field as a true
freshman. In the past, many high school fullbacks have shown up for their
freshman year overweight (Marvin Urquhart, Michael Greene), but Jefferson
checked in at impressive 4% body fat when he enrolled at Tech in the summer.

Overall Rating

I give this group a B+ overall. First of all, I
rank them higher than the quarterbacks because there is more experienced depth
at the tailback spot. Humes and Imoh have lettered a combined five years, and
both started games last season. Both have more than one 100 yard rushing game.
In short, if one were to be injured, there would be little to no dropoff in
production. George Bell and Branden Ore appear to be ready to play, and could be
effective if they were forced into action. This is a pretty loaded group.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to think of the
fullbacks. Jesse Allen should be much improved this season after a year as the
starter. But I also believe that the Hokies will pack more offensive punch with
a two tight end set this year, so like 2004, I don’t expect the fullbacks to
play as big a role as they have in years past.

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