When Sam Rogers left Virginia Tech, many wondered if the Hokies would see another fullback/power running back not only with his playing style, but also with a work ethic that was unmatched. However, the Hokies had a more reserved version of Rogers waiting in the wings in Steven Peoples.
Since then, Peoples has shown that he was more than ready to take the mantle from Rogers as a hard-working, power running back who's grit and intensity earns him yards and playing time.
During his time in Blacksburg, Peoples has been relatively quiet off-the-field but once he gets on a football field, he quickly makes a loud statement with his style of play.
"Peoples doesn’t say a lot of words but his play speaks for himself out there in practice. He is one of those guys that the defense doesn’t want to tackle. He is a bowling ball in there," RBs coach Zohn Burden said.
That bowling ball style was on display time and time again last season with Peoples being the guy that the Hokies could turn to for picking up a few tough yards in short yardage situations. In those situations, Peoples plays like the clichéd bowling ball power back that few defenders have had success stopping without him getting an extra yard or two.
That style of play doesn't have an off switch or dimmer either from gameday to practice for Peoples, and that also means that he faces a higher amount of contact than most running backs, increasing the risk of injury. In addition, Peoples dealt with some injuries last season that caused him to miss several games, but finished the season well with 127 yards on 32 carries against Virginia and Oklahoma State.
While Justin Fuente was excited to have a healthy Peoples again entering fall camp, Fuente knew at the start of camp that he had to be careful to manage his veteran power runner well in practice.
"It was nice to have Steven Peoples back. He’s really been effective and efficient when he’s been back there. We just went through a large part of the season without him last year, and I think it’s going to be important that we do a good job of managing him throughout camp because of the type of body type he has and the energy he exerts on every play. We’ll have to do a good job of managing him so that we can have him for a little bit longer," Fuente said.
So far, Fuente and Zohn Burden appear to have been successful in managing Peoples well in practice and making sure he stays at full strength going into a season in which Fuente and Burden both expect Peoples to have a significant role in the Hokies' backfield.
While Peoples is a quality power back on gameday, he's also proven to be a quality leader by example during practice for the Hokies' younger running backs, bringing an intensity level that goes beyond what any coach could imagine.
"You kind of always have to slow him down in practice which is a good thing. So he has a very positive impact on our room and it’s good for those younger guys to see his work ethic so it will carry over into their careers," Zohn Burden said.
That type of work ethic and intensity is why it's so easy to make the comparison between him and Sam Rogers, both of whom started their careers as walk-on fullbacks before quickly earning scholarships and beating out a room full of more highly-recruited tailbacks for playing time. Beyond their on-field success, both Rogers and Peoples modeled the high level of intensity and work ethic that any coach wants in their program and roster even if Peoples isn't nearly as vocal as Rogers was.
Steven Peoples may not put up the flashiest numbers or have the type of breakaway touchdown runs that bring the highest praise and attention from fans. However, Peoples is the type of guy that can get critical yards in short-yardage situations and does the little things well during games while also setting a high bar in practice with his work ethic and intensity that coaches can use as an example for younger players.
When Sam Rogers left Blacksburg, few fans imagined that Virginia Tech would have another hard-working power back like him who played with an extra level of intensity that many great walk-ons have. Instead, the Hokies quickly found the next Rogers in Steven Peoples even if Peoples isn't nearly as vocal as the running back he replaced.
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
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