If you knew who Coleman Fox was entering this season, you probably were a diehard Virginia Tech fan or lived in the Roanoke area where Fox shined at powerhouse Salem High School. Fox was about as far off the radar as you could get entering this fall. If you had to rank the running back depth chart entering fall camp, Fox would have probably came in seventh behind guys like DJ Reid and Terius Wheatley.
Throughout spring practice and fall camp, Justin Fuente consistently mentioned four running backs who he expected to be a part of the Hokies' RB rotation. None of those guys were Coleman Fox.
Now, Fox may be poised to gain first-team playing time over those four other running backs.
Against East Carolina, Coleman Fox made his debut with 8 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown. While Fox played well, he did it against backups on one of the worst defenses in FBS. Fox gained more garbage time minutes against ODU the following week and ended up being the Hokies' leading rusher that day with 11 carries for 66 yards. Fox continued to show promise, but it still was against backups for Group of 5 programs that may not make bowl games.
Saturday night, the paradigm changed and Fox made it clear that he's ready to take first-team playing time and not just be a scout team all-star.
In the fourth quarter, Fox came out but instead of being with the backup offense, Josh Jackson and VT's first-team offense went out with him and, for a possession, faced the first team unit for college football's best defense. Going against a defense loaded with former four and five-star talents, Fox made some things happen.
Fox led the Hokies in rushing with 5 carries for 39 yards along with 4 receptions for 13 yards. Three of Fox's five carries were for at least 9 yards including his longest run of 15 yards. Now all five of these carries did come against Clemson's second team defense, but that defense is loaded with former four and five-star recruits.
Those aren't big numbers but on a night where the Hokies didn't have their best offensive performance, Coleman Fox was a spark that made a difference. Fox showed some quickness in this game but more than that, he ran with aggression and when he found his hole, he attacked it and got down the field quickly.
With Fox having three-straight strong performances including 52 yards on 9 touches against Clemson, speculation has begun as to whether Fox will be able gain an actual first-team role outside of garbage time scenarios. Today, Justin Fuente responded to that possibility.
“I don’t know, we’ll see," Fuente said. "Two weeks ago, excluding the Clemson game, the games were out of hand, and we wanted to get him in there. Jalen (Holston) had been sick, and this past week, we had a fumble, we had a missed block on the perimeter. Coleman (Fox) had practiced well so we felt like putting him in there. I don’t know we’ll see. He’s done a good job when he’s been in there. He continues to work hard so we’ll see going into this week.”
This isn't a ringing endorsement or guarantee that Fox will see first-team time against Boston College, but the door is definitely open for Fox to do so. We've seen running backs get stuck in the dog house for weeks with Justin Fuente, and Travon McMillian may have an extended stay there after fumbling against Clemson and only coming out for one kick return after.
Fox has definitely shown he has the work ethic to earn first-team time at running back and with Steven Peoples dealing with an injury and the status of Jalen Holston being unknown, there is definitely opportunity available.
The Hokies also face a Boston College rush defense that has given up over 250 rushing yards per game. VT is likely to emphasize their rushing attack this week and Fox could be a big part of that, especially with the garbage time spark he provided against Clemson.
If you would have said before the season that Coleman Fox would have any sort of role in this offense, you would have been crazy or predicting that Virginia Tech would deal with a serious injury issue at running back. If anything, most wondered if this would be Fox's last season in Blacksburg before transferring to a JMU or ODU in search of playing time.
Instead, Coleman Fox has put his head down and found playing time with his only moves coming inside a football stadium on opposing defenders.
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