Hokies Football: Travon McMillian and Virginia Tech’s Running Game Are Struggling

The Virginia Tech Hokies have been scoring plenty of points over the past few weeks as they have had back-to-back games of at least 49 points and are averaging an impressive 40.75 points per game so far which ranks in the top 30 across college football. A main reason for that has been Jerod Evans who has 13 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, and only 1 interception so far this season.

However, while Evans and the passing game has been sensational, Virginia Tech’s rushing attack has had some issues.

Travon McMillian seemed poised for a big 2016 season but has struggled so far with his only really good performance coming against Tennessee. McMillian is the Hokies’ leading rusher by only 3 yards at 212¬†over Jerod Evans with no other Hokie rusher even having 100 rushing yards this season.

When you dig deeper inside the numbers, the Hokies’ running struggles are more exposed as McMillian would be averaging only 3 yards per carry compared to 4.4 if you take away his 69-yard rushing touchdown against Tennessee. While you could do this with most running backs, the fact that McMillian is only averaging 3 yards per carry outside of his big run is a big concern.

Sam Rogers has received the second most carries among Virginia Tech running backs this season but the senior is below the Mendoza Line of yards per carry at 3.8 compared to having a running back ideally average at least 4 yards per carry. Marshawn Williams played well against Boston College and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry so far this season but fellow injury-returner Shai McKenzie has struggled averaging only 3.4 yards per carry.

Virginia Tech’s running game issues became more exposed this past week against East Carolina as McMillian only had 10 yards on 9 carries while Rogers had 29 yards on 9 carries and Williams had 8 yards and a touchdown on 3 carries. When your three best running backs combine for 47 yards on 21 carries against a team that doesn’t have a very good defense, that is definitely a concern.

Part of that is the fact that while Virginia Tech’s pass blocking has been solid, the run blocking has had their issues especially at center and left guard. Unsurprisingly, those are the two spots where Virginia Tech hasn’t had any consistency at with their first team offensive line as Wyatt Teller and Colt Pettit have been battling at left guard while Eric Gallo and Kyle Chung have been battling at center.

Against East Carolina, the Hokies seemed to be more consistent with who got playing time on the interior of the offensive line with Augie Conte being joined by Teller and Gallo regularly. Going forward, having Teller and Gallo consistently be the first team should not only help to improve the chemistry that may not be as good from previous years but also let Teller and Gallo build up some confidence especially since those two were fairly solid last year.

Another issue could be the fact that McMillian may not have the greatest confidence right now and slumping because of it. That’s one of those things where it can take one decisive big run to get the confidence going. There have been times where McMillian has been overly patient waiting for a hole to develop and that has cost him the chance to get a few extra yards or McMillian hasn’t been decisive enough to take advantage of a big hole.

If McMillian’s slump continues, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams get more reps especially with the way he looked against Boston College. Rogers may also see his rep total increase more and more though Rogers has some different uses compared to Williams and McMillian that may prevent his workload and role in this offense from changing much along with the fact that he is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry.

The good news for the Hokies is that Jerod Evans and company are doing plenty of damage through the air but Justin Fuente will need his running game to improve led by the trio of Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers, and Marshawn Williams.

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