Virginia Tech will have a new starting tailback in a season of great expectations after Darren Evans tore a ligament in his left knee during practice….
His loss means that redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, Josh Oglesby or highly regarded freshman David Wilson will be the starter. Only Oglesby has carried the ball in a game.
Evans was the #3 RB in the ACC with over 1200 yards rushing in 2008. Along with the returning O-Line, Evans was a major contributor to the high expectations in Blacksburg this season. Luckily for VT, running back is one of those positions that can be filled by a true freshman…as long as that freshman is talented enough.
So add this to the story lines to watch in VT’s opening game against Alabama:
– Tyrod Taylor’s improvement (if any) at QB
– Offensive Line (experienced:yes….talented:????)
– Effectiveness of the VT rushing attack
As always, Dr. Football jumps on the case with an astute reassessment of Virginia Tech after the injury.
True, but that sort of rationalization still overlooks the disproportionate effect of Evans’ emergence in November — beginning with his record-breaking, 253-yard romp through Maryland on a Thursday night, off two straight losses, with both starting quarterbacks banged up, it wasn’t really the same team down the stretch. Evans went from averaging 65 yards on 16 carries through the first eight games to averaging 124 on 24 carries in the final six, and the Hokies rebounded from fading 5-3 also-rans to BCS winners with a 5-1 finish. He ran the ball at least 24 times in all five of those wins and won Orange Bowl MVP.
In the broader sense, at least as important as Evans’ emergence as the centerpiece of the offense is that it meant Tyrod Taylor didn’t have to be. For all the hype, Taylor struggled for two years to distance himself from paperweight Sean Glennon and was genuinely dreadful last year when he was forced to throw:
Even if you include his efforts against the I-AA teams, that efficiency rating would not have ranked in the top 100 nationally, mostly because he couldn’t find the end zone: A single touchdown in 150 attempts is either rare conservatism, rare inaccuracy downfield or — as I suspect, and Tech partisans’ persistent criticism of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring suggests — some combination of both. Either way, sophomores with Taylor’s obvious talent and projections are supposed to go sharply in the other direction.
The Hokies got away with an amazingly lackluster effort last year, but three conference losses probably won’t do again, and they realistically need to improve to at least 25-26 points per game to facilitate a three-peat. From that perspective, the thought that Taylor and an uninspiring group of receivers might have to take over the role of offensive engine for at least half of the season is pretty sobering, especially considering that the first two months of the schedule include dates with Alabama and Nebraska and all three of the top challengers in the division, Miami, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. That’s how long it took for Evans to really emerge as the go-to guy last year, and if it comes down to November again, the ownership of the Coastal may have already changed hands