Look at the numbers 53 and 98.
These are the number of rushing yards the Hokies had at Pittsburgh last week and the national ranking of the rushing offense after the first three games of the year, respectively.
This is a drastic change from the rushing attack of the past four seasons. In three out of the last four years, a Virginia Tech running back has broken a record on the ground: Darren Evans in 2008, Ryan Williams in 2009, and David Wilson in 2011.
But unless something drastically changes, this season will be anything but record breaking.
The Hokies only have one person with 100 yards rushing for the season: redshirt-freshman Michael Holmes. The next leading rushers are wide receiver Marcus Davis and freshman running back J.C. Coleman, who both have 54 yards.
Not all of the blame for the slow performance can be placed on the young tail backs however. The offensive line has not blocked for the run consistently in any of the first three games.
“Yes, we could have opened up some bigger holes for the backs, but sometimes it was just missed assignments or somebody was just going the wrong way," Painter said. "There are definitely some things that need to be fixed to get the running game go a lot better.”
Fans are accustomed to running backs being put on the field and immediately being successful, but it is important to remember that the top two running backs, Holmes and Coleman, are playing college football for the first time. Add that to the fact there are four new offensive linemen working together, and it isn't surprising that the rushing attack has been mediocre.
“It is collective; I am sure there were plays where there is no question the offensive line would have liked to block better, there is no doubt about it,” said running backs coach Shane Beamer. “There are plays that we had blocked really well, that we would have liked to see the running back pick a hole a little bit better.”
One bright spot in the running game has been redshirt-senior Martin Scales. On his ten attempts this season, he is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, the highest average among all running backs. Although Scales has been more successful in running the ball, coaches still have not said whether he would be getting more touches.
“I have no idea,” Scales said. “All of us go out there every day at practice as hard as we can go. That is up to the coaches, the plays they call, and we just go out there and do our job."
“I trust the coaches. That is their job and we are just out there to run it.”
During spring practice this year Shane Beamer said he thought all four guys (Holmes, Coleman, Scales and Tony Gregory) could potentially be starters. He still believes all the backs bring something to the table, but wants to transition to where one or two of the backs get most of the carries.