The running back rotation at Virginia Tech got a little clearer on Tuesday, as coaches announced that prized recruit Drew Harris didn’t qualify academically for the upcoming season.
Harris, who was considered a four-star recruit by most services and represented one of Shane Beamer’s bigger recruiting victories, will attend Fork Union Military Academy next year to attempt to raise his grades to an acceptable level to enroll at Tech for next season.
This news carries both positive and negatives for Hokies fans.
The obvious negative is that it deprives the team of a talented young player at a position of need. Harris suffered a knee injury in his senior year of high school, but said that he didn’t plan to redshirt in his first season, allowing him to make an impact right away. His mix of power and speed, in addition to his formidable 6’ 1” and 220-pound frame, impressed coaches early on, and many thought he could be a sleeper in the team’s competition for playing time at the position.
Additionally, since Harris will have to sign a new letter of intent with the team, he is technically open to be recruited by other schools. Considering that he had offers from Miami, Michigan, Penn State, West Virginia, Georgia and South Carolina when he accepted Tech’s overtures, coaches should definitely be nervous about getting him to re-commit.
However, this news is probably better for the team in the short run, as it makes the running back rotation considerably clearer.
The coaching staff, and Frank Beamer in particular, are in love with Michael Holmes, and it seems as if he’s going to be the lead back in this offense. Many have compared him to former Hokie Darren Evans, with even shades of Ryan Williams, and it’s clear after his impressive performances in the team’s two spring scrimmages that he’ll get the reps with the first team this summer.
There’s been a lot of talk about freshman J.C. Coleman, but it seems as if his time hasn’t come yet. The Maurice Jones-Drew comparisons abound, but he has yet to show much in practice, especially when facing the formidable first-team defense. It’s entirely possible that he’s a more talented back than Holmes is, but he seems suited to more of a Reggie Bush-type role in the offense than as a feature back.
Without Harris around to throw a wrench in the works, it’s now clear how things will play out this season; Holmes will carry the load, with occasional respite from Coleman. We may see former fullback Martin Scales sneak in for power situations, and junior Tony Gregory may handle some return duties, but this is Holmes’ job to lose.
It’s a bit nerve-wracking to be forced to go after Harris again, and it’s never great to lose talent at any position, but this decision may be a blessing in disguise for the Hokies.
The offense is uncertain as it is, so the less controversy among the coaching staff, the better.