We continue on with our position-by-position preview of the Hokies ahead of the start of fall practice with a look at Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers, and Virginia Tech’s backfield.
Over the past few years, the Hokies have had some turnover at the starting running back spot but entering the 2016 season, the Hokies have some stability with Travon McMillian back.
Of course, Deshawn McClease put a lot of pressure on McMillian who needed to be humbled some after a breakout 2015 season. However, McMillian has stepped up over the summer and has locked back down the starting running back spot ahead of fall practice.
Now, McMillian will be looking to build on a strong 2015 season that earned him All-ACC Third Team honors and have many seeing him as the best tailback since at least David Wilson.
McMillian 1,043 rushing yards and 7 rushing touchdowns on 200 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry while proving that he has the speed to turn a solid run into a big play if he gets a hole. McMillian is not a power back but he is a downhill runner that isn’t afraid of contact and knows when to put his head down to get every yard he can get instead of trying to find an almost impossible way out for a big play.
McMillian has very good speed and a burst that can help him get some separation to get a big run or touchdown while also having solid agility as well. McMillian has shown that he can also be useful in the passing game after having 12 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown as a freshman.
McMillian is at least Virginia Tech’s best running back since David Wilson, and will have a big role to play to take pressure off whoever wins the starting quarterback job. While Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges may be the best known offensive names, McMillian has the potential to make the biggest difference and carry a big load especially early for whoever takes over for Michael Brewer.
McMillian will be joined on many plays by fan favorite and former walk-on fullback Sam Rogers. Rogers has become known for his tremendous work ethic and character while being arguably the best fullback in all of college football. Rogers is a versatile weapon that can be used in multiple roles as a blocker, power back for third-and-shirts and goal-line situations, and a solid receiver that can make some plays in space as shown by his receiving touchdown against Ohio State last season.
Rogers has also become one of the leaders of this team as shown by Justin Fuente choosing the fullback over higher-profile offensive players to be one of the two Virginia Tech player representatives at the ACC Kickoff. As a senior, Rogers is a leader and impact player that finds ways to leave his mark on any game.
Behind McMillian at the running back spot is Deshawn McClease who pushed McMillian this spring and might just be able to push him again this fall. McClease likely will be the top backup behind McMillian but McClease will definitely play some this fall and can be a solid backup as a change-of-pace back.
McClease is definitely a speed back that has the speed and burst to be very dangerous in space and could be used a lot on runs out of shotgun or even used on jet sweeps out of the slot. McClease also has the quick speed, burst, and receiving skills to be effective in the passing game out of the backfield, on screens, or even out of the slot in some cases. McClease has a bright future and will be a solid backup behind McMillian.
Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie have both struggled to stay healthy and the Hokies will be hoping that this year will be a clean health year for the duo. It has been reported that Williams will be ready to go for fall practice and the redshirt sophomore could have a role as a pure power back that can run over people and make an impact on short-yardage situations.
While Williams does have a potential niche role, McKenzie may have some issues finding a role behind McMillian and McClease as someone who has a good blend of speed, agility, and strength but not one elite skill among that trio. McKenzie hasn’t been the same player even in practice since tearing his ACL as a freshman, but McKenzie has had time for that injury to heal and seems ready to be a solid back if injuries push him into a prominent role.
D.J. Reid showed some upside this spring but Reid is another player that is buried on the depth chart currently. Reid is built as a power back but has below-average speed though he did show some solid burst at times this spring. Reid will keep pushing to try to climb the depth chart but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him transfer to a school like ODU or JMU in the not too distant future if he doesn’t break through this season or next spring.
Coleman Fox is another man buried on the depth chart but both him and Reid have proven to be hard workers in practice and may have an outside chance at playing on kick or punt coverage. Fox is fairly versatile and could have the potential to move from running back to a slot wide receiver role down the road if wide receiver doesn’t work out.
At fullback, Rogers has a solid future replacement in Steven Peoples who looked quite good in the spring before his freshman year and has a lot of upside at the spot. Peoples was a small school legend that has developed into a solid, power-running fullback that can run over some people and has decent speed for a fullback. Behind Rogers and Peoples likely will be redshirt freshman walk-on Trey Skeens who could be the next fullback after those two.
RB Depth Chart Prediction
- Travon McMillian
- Deshawn McClease
- Marshawn Williams
- Shai McKenzie
- D.J. Reid
- Coleman Fox
FB Depth Chart Prediction
- Sam Rogers
- Steven Peoples
- Trey Skeens
At running back, Travon McMillian still seems to have the starting spot locked down while Deshawn McClease will be McMillian’s backup. Williams is healthy and his ability as a power back will help him climb to third on the depth chart while McKenzie, Reid, and Fox will be behind him. For McKenzie and Reid, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them consider transferring after this season if this turns out to be the case. Meanwhile, the fullback ascendency is set with Rogers, Peoples, and Skeens.
The Hokies have a much more settled backfield than they’ve had in a couple years led by Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers, and Deshawn McClease. Tomorrow, we’ll keep on going with Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, and Virginia Tech’s wide receivers.
Check out the home of our 2016 Virginia Tech Football Preview right here.