Tech still trying to improve the running game

Despite running backs coach Shane Beamer admitting this week that the rushing game isn’t where he would like it to be, the backfield rotation will remain the same Saturday.

Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie will maintain their positions atop the depth chart against Western Michigan, and true freshmen duo will alternate each possession.

“I heard from plenty of people after the game about our running back rotation and our use of them,” Beamer said. “To me, it is what it is. It’s the same rotation it was three weeks ago. Shai and Marhsawn are our top two, they alternate every series.

“When Shai starts a series, he’s going to finish a series. When Marshawn starts a series, he’s going to finish a series. Unless, we call a different personnel grouping because we want to get someone else in, or they need a blow.”

Beamer noted one particular series when McKenzie came out for Williams as the Hokies faced a third-and-one. That, Beamer said, was McKeznie asking for a breather after he slightly rolled his ankle, and not a planned swap.

Tech ranks 89th in the nation on the ground, averaging 141.3 rushing yards per game. It averages 3.2 yards per carry against FBS opponents this season,

“It’s a progress. It’s nowhere near what we want it to be. Beamer said. “I think we threw it 40 Saturday, 39 times, we have to do what we have to do to win, but ideally we’re going to be a better offense if we don’t have to throw it 40 times.

“We have running backs that get better as the game goes on. I think they are physical guys that can weigh defenses down. So we have to continue to give those guys the ball,” Beamer said. “We talked about it as a staff. We’d like to run the ball even more than what we did on Saturday against Georgia Tech. But like I said, we have to do what we have to do to win games.”

Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler echoed Beamer’s mentality. Loeffler said there were more planned runs than it seemed against Georgia Tech – some had to be checked out of at the line because of defensive alignments, but he’d still like to see the running backs shoulder more of the load.

“(We’re) not there yet. We’re not,” Loeffler said. “If so, we wouldn’t be talking about it. We wouldn’t be talking about it if we were exactly where we wanted to be. But we’ll get there. We’ve made improvement. Is it 100 percent? No. Absolutely not.”

The two starters, McKenzie and Williams, ran the ball 12 and 10 times, respectively Saturday. Next most for a running back – Brewer called his own number four times – was Trey Edmunds, who, depending on who is asked, is still not back to 100 percent after breaking his leg last season against Virginia.

Frank Beamer has said he doesn’t think Edmunds has the same burst and explosiveness as he did before the injury. Shane Beamer said sometimes he sees the old Edmunds; sometimes he doesn’t. Edmunds though, who ran for 10 yards on his two carries, believes he’s fully healthy.

“I feel like my old self out there,” Edmunds said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. Just to go out and be able to help my team on offense running the ball. I felt good, no pain whatsoever and hopefully I can continue to get them.”

“(The coaches) may see something different that I don’t see. All I can do is just work hard to get that extra burst. Just speaking from a running back standpoint, we’re definitely putting in the work. I’m just trying to do whatever I can for the team.”

16 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. There is no doubt that Shai is the best back. Between he and MW, SM has better vision, more patience, better speed, catches the ball better, is a better pass protector, and he runs equally as hard as MW…but the #1 factor is that he has better ball security. We cannot afford to turn it over….MW has terrible technique and zero vision. He is a good backup…but Shai should be the future and present of the rebuilt running game

    1. Repetition over and over would make the running game more efficient we run the ball one time and get less four yards and then two series later run one more time and wonder why we are not getting five yards per carry. Try three runs and punt if necessary.

  2. ‘Packaged sets’ is sports talk for over coaching. RBs need to be in the flow of the game. SB continues to substitute overplaying his hand with the personal packages. Now 4 games into the season you can also see trends as the same plays are being run out of these personnel packages. Instead of continuing to repeat same ole busted plays. May I suggest a few changes: add youth to the line, if we’re going to struggle why repeat this again next year and sitting Ferris, Wang & Gibson for a few series might help their actual playing time. Shift Wang back to Center and rotate with Ferris. Inject Teller, Smith and Hansen into the line up more…They’re strong and seem to get a positive push. How about running under center and use the power I with Redmen at tight end and Rogers at fullback leading the way. Running game has been a liability since Billy Hite retired, maybe he left the cupboard bare AND maybe it’s poor decision making like a five running back rotation and ‘special packages’ for all.

    I’ll be there Sat, and would like to see some positive mojo, staying ahead of the chains, using misdirection and quick traps to help our line, unbalanced line, spreading it out without being in the shoutgun. Team has talent but too often this season is being over coached, or is making mental mistakes with penalities. This week at homecoming it improves one step at a time. Go Hokies!

  3. Agree. As the primary RB, Shai should be the guy! He’s faster to the hole and faster when he gets to the 2nd level.

  4. It is easy, and common, to blame the OL for running game problems but I think it is more a running back problem. These guys are young and have poor vision on many runs. I was at the GT game and recall a play when the line zone blocked to the left, the right tackle did an adequate job of sealing off the defensive end from going down the line and instead of cutting back behind the block of Conte going left, Marshawn ran into the back end of Farris and Wang.

    Running game is successful when all positions do their job. Backs have to see the cutback lanes AND the wide receivers have to make and maintain their blocks not dive at the feet and whiff.

    1. It’s easy and common because it’s true. It’s an OL problem first. Not saying the RBs are perfect but to quote a former OL coach, the OL is the tip of the spear.

  5. I think you’re right – he appears to have a faster start, which given our situation this year, may be what we need. We don’t have a bruising running game right now because our OL is still new/young, so Williams seems like a better option in situations like goal line.

  6. Still don’t know why the coaches insist on running J.J Coleman he seems to lose ground nearly every time he gets a handoff.

    1. For the season JC has 15 carries. 10 of these 15 carries were in the first game of the season (W&M) which was his only start. In the next 3 games he got 3 carries vs OSU, 0 vs ECU and 2 vs GT.

      Against W&M on his 10 carries he got 20 yards.

      Against OSU on 3 carries he got 16 yards.

      Against GT on 2 carries he got -1 yards.

      The bottom line to me is he isn’t getting that many carries; we have bigger issues that one rb who averages 3.75 carries per game (1.67 if you count FBS teams) and 2.3 yards per carry (3 yds per carry vs FBS teams). I think the reality he, is he pretty much out of the rotation at this point.

    2. He carried the ball TWICE against GT and THREE times against ECU (averaged over 5YPC)….No question JC is what is wrong with our running game. The other guys are tearing it up…

  7. McKenzie looks best to most of us. With an average OL, you need a back that hits the hold quicker. I think the running game looks much better if Coach Loeffler commits to it and gives McKenzie 20 carries and Williams/Trey the rest.

    1. Could not agree more. We are trying to make too many of the running backs happy. We need to be focused on geting the running game more effective. 4 games into the season, I am done hearing about people being out of shape, or gased, whatever. Give them the ball and see what they can do

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