Heading into the 2013 offseason it looked like the Virginia Tech football team would have its hands full trying to sort out their running backs.
Both starters from 2012 — JC Coleman and Michael Holmes — were back along with main backup Tony Gregory and redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus.
Now heading into the season opener against Alabama it seems likely that only one of those running backs, Trey Edmunds, will be playing. What was once the team's deepest position on offense is now its most shallow.
The attrition began in July, when a student judicial board dismissed Holmes after he pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge in June.
The Hokies then lost another running back when Gregory re-tore his ACL, effectively ending his career at Tech.
In fall practice another switch occurred when Mangus changed positions to wide receiver, with highly rated 2012 recruit Joel Caleb moving over to running back.
Caleb took to the position quickly and he is now listed as the second team running back on the depth chart.
However, Caleb has been suspended for the season opener against Alabama because of an unspecified violation of team rules.
There was more bad news for the Hokie running backs though.
When the training staff announced Gregory’s injury, they also announced that Coleman had sprained both his right and left ankles. At the time, they gave an optimistic projection that he would be ready for Alabama, but the latest injury report listed him as questionable.
When asked about Coleman’s status on Tuesday, running backs coach Shane Beamer said, “He looked better. I’ll be honest with you at about noon today I didn’t think there was any chance he would play. He said he feels good.”
Only having one running back definitely available is worrisome though, and the Hokies would rather not have one player take all of the carries.
“I don’t think it’s realistic against these guys, or any game, to ask Trey Edmunds to take the entire game,” said Beamer.
To help combat the depth issues, the Hokies moved Chris Mangus back to running back. With Caleb unavailable, if Coleman cannot play Saturday, Mangus will be the backup to Edmunds.
“Now we’ll have packages where Mangus will have to get in the game,” said Beamer.
To his credit, Edmunds seems willing to take on the challenge.
“Football is a contact sport. Being a running back, the contact is definitely going to come,” said Edmunds.
“The thing is to have each and every guy ready so when one guy goes down we have other guys ready, and that’s why myself and some of the other running backs were able to step up,” said Edmunds.
Going into a big game against the consensus number one team in the nation, especially with just one healthy full-time running back, can be daunting and the Hokie aren’t pretending otherwise.
“They are really good, but they are really good fundamentally,” said Beamer.
“It’s definitely going to be big. I haven’t really set too many personal goals but from a team aspect it’s definitely going to be big,” said Edmunds.
According to Thursday's injury report, Coleman is still listed as "questionable," leaving the depth chart uncertain.
In any case, the running backs will have to step up against a daunting opponent.
“I just want us to play hard. Hopefully we can get everything to click,” said Edmunds.