Our series of scouting reports continues as we move from wide receiver to running back starting with JUCO three-star RB Marco Lee.
Virginia Tech was looking to add a power-running tailback this cycle who could play immediately turning to the JUCO ranks with Marco Lee committing to the Hokies in early November.
Since then, Lee has been ranked as one of the top 50 JUCO recruits in the country by ESPN (30th) and 247 Sports (47th). Additionally, Lee is ranked as the top JUCO running back nationally by ESPN and third best by 247 Sports.
Those rankings appear well-deserved after Lee ran for 820 yards and 5 touchdowns this past season averaging 5.2 yards per carry. His yardage ranked 14th among all JUCO players while he also received plenty of opportunity with the eighth most carries at the JUCO level this past season.
With that said, here's a look at Marco Lee's midseason highlight tape.
What's clear from the tape is that Lee is the powerback that the Hokies lacked this season having to turn to Dalton Keene at times to be that. Again and again, Lee's usage is between the tackles in part because he has the size to handle it at 5'11'' and 225 pounds.
Lee is also clearly productive in that role showing the type of downhill running mentality that a great powerback needs to have to have any success. Combine that with the requisite size and there is plenty of potential for Lee to be a very good power runner.
As a runner, Lee is more bowling ball than speed back being hard to bring down once he gets going downhill. That shows with weak tacklers being easily shed and Lee usually focused on getting the extra yards once he knows his odds of breaking a tackle are small. Lee may not be a big play machine, but he has shown that he has the intangibles, mentality, and strength to be a productive powerback both in short yardage situations and in the redzone with the potential to break a few long runs.
Marco Lee has solid speed, but not the type of breakaway speed that would give him more versatility to be effective running outside the tackles. While his speed likely will improve some with a Power 5 weight room and training program, there's only so much faster Lee an get while maintaining his current size and stature.
Lee only had 5 receptions this past season and isn't the most dangerous player in the passing game. However, Lee does show some promise especially on screens which could allow the Hokies to give him enough passing options to force defenses to respect him as such though that remains to be seen.
Lee is very similar to another former Virginia Tech RB in Steven Peoples. Like Peoples, Lee is a bowling ball type runner who doesn't have breakaway speed, but can be relied on to pick up a couple extra yards. However, Lee doesn't have the explosiveness or speed currently to be the featured guy in a backfield. We saw a guy like Peoples develop that somewhat over his time and while Lee's ceiling for speed and explosiveness may be a little higher, he will definitely be a power running back first.
The interesting thing to watch with Lee is the potential competition between him and Jalen Holston who was that power-running threat for the Hokies before suffering an early injury that will lead to him redshirting. If Lee is able to beat out Holston, you have to wonder if Holston's future may be elsewhere especially given the overhaul happening in Tech's backfield with the additions of older RBs like Lee and Kansas trasnfer Khalil Herbert to go with Deshawn McClease, Keshawn King, and Tahj Gary.
Virginia Tech needed to add a power-running option to their running back rotation and have done so with Marco Lee who is built in the Steven Peoples mold. The question that remains is can Lee grow into more than just a powerback for short yardage and redzone situations.