Marshawn Williams started out as a promising freshman in 2014 with eight starts in nine games plus 475 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns on 124 carries. Williams built a reputation as a power runner that could bulldoze his way through opposing linebackers and get some of the tough yards in the red zone and in short-yardage situations.
However, Williams’ season ended early due to a torn left ACL that also caused him to miss the following spring practice. Then, Williams suffered another knee injury that led to him redshirting during the 2015 season. At that point, Travon McMillian had earned the job while Deshawn McClease had stepped up to become the traditional backup behind McMillian and Sam Rogers with Williams once again missing spring practice.
There were times when it looked like a transfer could be a possibility for Williams if he wanted a chance to get some significant playing time. However, Williams stuck around and reaped the benefits in his season debut and first game action since 2014.
Williams took a mix of carries with the first and second team offenses throughout the game but finished as the Hokies’ leading rusher with 15 carries for 81 yards and an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Williams took advantage of his carries in the fourth quarter against a Boston College that still had a few first team guys but also was somewhat productive against the first team Boston College defense.
Williams was not only able to do what he has done in the past as a power runner but Williams was also able to do some damage in space on the outside off of option plays and sweeps. While Williams is still more of a power runner, yesterday’s game proved that Williams may not be a liability when used on outside runs, making him a little more versatile as a tailback.
Williams also gives the Hokies a quality backup behind Travon McMillian and Sam Rogers after Deshawn McClease was ruled out for the season with an upper extremity injury. Having Williams and Shai McKenzie behind McMillian and Rogers should take away some nerves about losing McMillian or Rogers to injury.
Going forward, Williams seems likely to be right behind McMillian in terms of weekly carries with McMillian and Rogers being the two primary backs for the Hokies. However, Williams will surely be continued to be pushed by McKenzie with Justin Fuente comfortable with going with the hot hand among the backups to come in, and give McMillian and Rogers some rest.
Marshawn Williams made quite a strong statement Saturday afternoon that the power runner from the 757 is back and ready to step into a backup role left by the season-ending injury to Deshawn McClease with one of his strongest statistical performances as a Hokie.