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Jalen Holston Searching To Take Next Step In Crowded Virginia Tech Backfield

Holston
Carter Hill | @cbhill_03
Writer/Associate Editor

Jalen Holston has long-awaited his shot to be a difference maker in his time at Virginia Tech. In 2022, the sixth-year senior may finally get that opportunity.

Rushing for 199 yards with a touchdown on 52 carries a season ago, Holston once again found himself caught in a numbers game. Combine that with the presence of the always potent Raheem Blackshear and the emergence of true freshman Malachi Thomas, and the Stockbrige, Georgia native once again saw few opportunities down the stretch in the midst of a mediocre 2021 campaign.

Enduring injuries, limited action and a coaching change, Holston had every reason to pursue another chance elsewhere via the transfer portal. To this point, the decision to stay has certainly paid off.

No stranger to competition, Holston now finds himself locked in another battle with the returning Thomas as the Hokies’ starter in the backfield.

And at least early on, the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder has certainly attracted some attention throughout fall camp as Tech’s opener at Old Dominion continues to loom closer. Especially from a rather important contingent.

“One of the nice things about being the head coach is you can kind of at times step back in a period and you’re seeing all of [practice]. It’s easy to see players that stand out,” said head coach Brent Pry.

“Holston has really impressed me this summer. He’s been very consistent, which is something we were asking and looking for.”

Exactly what does Pry mean by consistency? A term very often used, yet can often be misinterpreted. Offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen was sure to explain.

“[It’s just] in every aspect of what we’re asking those guys to do, whether that’s carrying the ball, catching the ball, pass protection,” commended the first-year Tech assistant. “He’s been very consistent in his work ethic, his approach and everything that he does in practice.”

Certainly a comment that shouldn’t surprise Virginia Tech’s fan base.

Holston was widely discussed when mentioning some of the hardest workers in the maroon and orange during the Justin Fuente regime. And now just a couple months in, similar things have been said about one of the longest tenured Hokies throughout the transition to the Pry era.

The praise doesn’t stop there.

“That veteran presence is something that I notice every day,” Bowen added when asked what stands out about the Tech running back.

“His leadership within that [running backs] room and our offense, I think he’s really grown in that regard. We’re really excited about Jalen and how he’s coming along.”

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Of course, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Holston’s role in 2022.

Thomas’ unexpected availability certainly is something to watch out for over the next couple of weeks. But assuming the fellow Georgia product is good to go in the long run, the competition between the two should certainly be something to watch.

“It’s kind of 1A and 1B right now,” admitted running backs coach Stu Holt. “Jalen being an older guy leans more towards being vocal and backs it up with his play. Malachi being a younger guy doesn’t say as much but backs it up with his play.

“Both of those players are very well-rounded. They can play on any down, any situation, can do whatever you ask them to do. Very pleased with both of those guys.”

Redshirt junior Keshawn King and redshirt freshman Chance Black have also been considered heavily in the mix, but it seems both have taken a slight back seat to the aforementioned experienced pair.

“I think you look at what [a] guy's strengths and weaknesses are, what schemes they excel at, what they don’t excel at,” Bowen said when describing how to handpick when to use a specific back in certain situations.

“You try to play to those strengths and keep bringing along the weaknesses as you go,” he continued. “Genuinely on any football team, you’re going to get into your depth chart at some point in the season. We want all of those guys to be ready. We’ll need every one of them by the end of it.”

Regardless if Holston wins the job or not, the former four-star recruit seems will have ample opportunities this season to showcase his talents. And whether it’s him or Thomas on the field for the first snap on Labor Day weekend in the 757, it appears that Holston is poised for a solid 2022 campaign.

And after years of waiting in the wings, the opportunity to be in the spotlight is finally here for a potential key ingredient in this Virginia Tech offense.

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