On National Signing Day last year, one of the names you probably didn’t recognize was that of Michael Holmes.
A three-star running back from Harrisonburg, Va., Holmes doesn’t hail from a football hotbed like many of his teammates do. That all goes away now that he’s likely to receive a good portion of the carries this season.
“Everyone has to prove something,” Holmes said. “No one has a proven spot, so everyone has to work hard.”
This year will mark the first time in three seasons the Hokies don’t return a proven running back. With David Wilson gone early to the NFL, Holmes and backfield mate J.C. Coleman will be saddled with the task of replacing Wilson’s 1,709 yards from a season
Holmes, just a redshirted freshman himself, hasn’t had a moment in a practice or scrimmage where he considers himself "the guy" in the Hokies’ backfield.
“I haven’t had a moment yet,” Holmes said. “When you get in there, you just try to do what you can do.”
Wednesday night, during the Hokies first intra-squad scrimmage inside Lane Stadium, Holmes obviously left his mark. Although he unofficially rushed four times for just four yards, he caught the eye of one pretty important person.
“The guy who you kind of notice a couple of times is Michael Holmes,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “He’s got good moves, power and speed. He’s a guy you kind of notice.”
At 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, Holmes is on the bigger side of some of the Hokies recent running backs. In fact, Holmes would measure as the third-tallest running back in this year’s NFL Draft.
“Sometimes it’s kind of bad, because people can easily cut my legs out, whereas J.C. can easily weave through,” Holmes said. “I have to stay low and keep my pads down. Coach Shane (Beamer) works on that every day.”
Coleman, standing just 5-foot-7, complements Holmes nicely in the backfield. Should Holmes and Coleman both stay healthy, the Hokies could have a potential two-headed monster for the next three to four years.
HOKIES WANT TO BE MORE ‘UP-TEMPO’ ON OFFENSE
While last season was certainly a big-change on offense, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring envisions the Hokies being even more up-tempo in 2012.
The Hokies passed the ball on average 28 times per game in 2011, up from 24 times per game in 2010 and 19 times in 2009.
“We’re trying to increase our tempo in everything that we do,” Stinespring said. “We’ve worked a lot of spread sets in conjunction with our fullback and tight end based sets. We’ve really explored that a lot in our off-season.”
Logan Thomas, who burst onto the scene last year with one of the best seasons a Virginia Tech quarterback has ever had, is back this year with something to prove.
Coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, Thomas and the Hokies’ offense figures to shake off some rust and get right back to it this fall.
“There’s going to be some bumps along the road, but we’ve got to keep pressing forward and stay the course,” Stinespring said.
Those bumps, namely replacing four starters on the offensive line as well as receivers Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, won’t be easy. Tech will lean on Thomas to supply the offense and Bud Foster’s defense to keep the opposition out of the end zone.
KICKERS AND PUNTERS COMPETE FOR JOBS
Special teams, which has typically been a position of strength,was a gaping hole for the Hokies last year.
This spring, the Hokies are looking to fill their punter and kicker positions through competition. Michael Branthover, who was replaced last year by Coale at punter, punted one time in Wednesday’s scrimmage for 33 yards. His counterpart Ethan Keyserling punted twice for 37 and 29 yards.
Branthover also attempted two field goals, hitting from 32 yards and missing from 37. Conor Goulding went 0-for-1 with a miss from 32 yards.
“Keyserling has been punting well, and Branthover,” Beamer said. “Branthover has probably been the better guy field goal wise, but Conor
Goulding has been in there, field goal wise. Everybody got kicks, and we’re going to look at them and see what they did out there.”