Virginia Tech is replacing last season's leading rusher Steven Peoples this offseason, but the Hokies have someone ready to step up and take his place. Running back Jalen Holston is ready to embrace the same type of role that Steven Peoples held on last year's team.
"I like to go hit people. If you want to call me a bowling ball, that works for me," Holston said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Holston, a junior from Stockbridge, Ga., ran the ball 57 times for 281 yards last season. He scored two touchdowns for the Hokies. He had a season-high 54 yards in the game against Marshall in December, including a career-long 40-yard touchdown run.
Holston never received more than 10 carries in a game, so receiving more playing time will allow him to have more of an impact on the Hokies in 2019. Despite the successes that he did have last season, head coach Justin Fuente thinks there are a few things that held him back last season.
“I think the first thing was that he missed a good portion of the off-season and I think that hurt him," Fuente said. "He was a true freshman that didn’t redshirt and that missed a large portion of the physical development that he needed after the season last year because he was coming off of an injury. That hurt him a little bit."
The 5-foot-11 running back is ready to step up next year, and he should be able to fill the role well. At about two inches taller than Peoples, Holston is a little bit taller and can handle carrying more weight while still maintaining a little more speed than Peoples had. He has shown good speed at times to separate from many in-the-box defenders, but his best physical attribute is his strength that allows him to power through defenders for an extra yard or 2 at times like Peoples.
Those attributes combined with Holston taking on a larger, more vocal leadership role has led Fuente to believe he's primed to take his game to the next level in 2019.
"This has been the offseason that he’s needed to have and I don’t just mean physically, I mean within the team," Fuente said. "He’s much more confident, much more vocal in a positive way out there on the field. He feels better, his body feels better, he’s stronger, in better shape and he’s been rearing to go. I’ve been really pleased with him."
Also like Peoples, Holston has become one of the hardest workers on the Hokies' team. Fuente added that Holston's hard work has earned him a spot in the top 10 in the Hokies' Hard Hat competition, which is based on strength and conditioning.
"There’s still a long way to go, but he’s certainly deserves to be recognized for the work he’s putting in,” Fuente said.
Virginia Tech fans will get their first chance to see Holston and the Hokies in action this year during the spring game, which will be held on April 13th in Lane Stadium.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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