PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jalen Holston and Raheem Blackshear appear poised to give Tech a solid one-two punch on the ground in 2021. After suffering a season-ending injury in the 2019 opener, Holston demonstrated his physical downhill running style with a 14-carry, 58-yard performance vs. Virginia. He finished the season with 40 carries for 189 yards, including a pair of rushing scores vs. Miami.
The speedy Blackshear can line up in the backfield or in the slot, making him a difficult match-up for opposing defenses. The Rutgers transfer rushed 68 times for 255 yards with two touchdowns a year ago and led the running back room with 18 receptions.
He produced a trio of 100-yard rushing games during his time at Rutgers and posted a season-high 59 yards last season at Duke. Don’t be surprised if both Holston and Blackshear get ample opportunities to make plays in 2021.
OTHERS IN THE MIX
Keshawn King could be poised for a bigger role in 2021 after accumulating 79 carries for 340 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2019. Much like Blackshear, he possesses good hands, catching nine passes for 154 yards as a freshman. Marco Lee was a top-10 finisher in Tech’s strength and conditioning program while Jordan Brunson, Tahj Gary, and Jalen Hampton also earned Hard Hats this spring.
All of those players need to make the most out of every rep during preseason camp with an abundance of talented performers in Tech’s running back corps.
Virginia Tech ranked sixth in the nation with 2,641 rushing yards last season, but will need to replace the production of Khalil Herbert, who ran for 1,182 yards in 2020.
The Hokies outrushed their opponents in eight of 11 games last season including a 260-yard disparity vs. Boston College.
Tech produced six games with 250+ rushing yards and owns a 12-2 record under Fuente in such contests.
Tech’s tailbacks were used consistently in the passing game last season, combining for 31 receptions and 391 receiving yards in 2020.
Don’t expect any one individual to replace the productivity of Herbert, who piled up 1,361 yards from scrimmage in 2020. The three-headed monster of Holston, Blackshear, and King appears poised to get the lion’s share of touches in 2021. With multiple returning starters on an offensive line that helped Tech lead the ACC in rushing (240.1 yards per game), expect the Hokies to seek continued success on the ground. And don’t forget, Quarterback Braxton Burmeister and Tech’s receivers have also demonstrated the ability to excel as ball carries.