While at home last January, Virginia Tech running back David Wilson spotted a 1978 Ford Thunderbird sitting in a Danville, Va., back yard, knocked on the stranger’s front door and negotiated a deal to buy it for $2,000.
He then took the vintage car and added about $7,000 in enhancements, including $3,000 for a vinyl interior and a new paint job, another $2,000 for 24-inch rims, $800 for new tires and an additional $800 on a customized stereo system.
“Where I’m from, it’s kind of like everybody my age got one,” Wilson explained after practice Monday, adding that he’d been saving money up for a while and his parents gave him a loan. “It’s the thing to do.”
But Wilson’s ride isn’t the only thing that looks upgraded as the Hokies inch closer and closer to the end of training camp. With less than two weeks until the season opener against Appalachian State, Virginia Tech’s new starting running back looks to be an even bigger playmaker than before.
In Saturday’s scrimmage, he broke off untouched on a 40-yard touchdown and averaged more than 10 yards per carry. Running backs coach Shane Beamer said his performance was more impressive on film. On Wilson’s 13 snaps during the scrimmage, he earned a plus in Beamer’s grade book on every play, including those where he didn’t touch the ball.
Beamer says the biggest difference in Wilson’s game right now is his patience hitting the hole. Last season, when he scored a team-best 11 touchdowns, the blazing tailback had a tendency to beat his blockers to the punch, so to speak.
Wilson’s tree-trunk legs have also been something to behold.
“I knew he was fast … but he’s able to run through people, whether it be linebackers, defensive linemen, defensive backs,” Beamer said of the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Wilson. “He can lower his shoulder and run over somebody, run over people. In the two scrimmages he’s had great runs. But we keep up with yards after contact, after a guy gets a hand on him, and in his two scrimmages he’s got something like 80 or 90 yards after contact. Just where a guy has a chance to bring him down and he just runs through or carries somebody for 10 yards. That’s what the great ones do.”
Hanging in his locker, Wilson has a goal sheet that, if accomplished, would certainly rank him among the country’s best tailbacks this year. It would also surpass former running back Ryan Williams’s huge 2009 campaign.
If Wilson has his way, he’ll average 100 rushing yards and one touchdown per game, have one game in which he gains more than 260 rushing yards, finish the season with more than 1,700 yards and 20 touchdowns and earn first-team all-ACC and all-American status.
“And no fumbles,” Wilson quickly added. “With a star beside it.”
Even if he just comes close to attaining those lofty expectations, it’s Wilson who will have the star beside his name at the end of the year. And with how good Wilson has looked in training camp, perhaps a run at the Heisman Trophy isn’t out of the question either.
“I feel more explosive on the field,” Wilson said. “When I go out there I just like the ball being in my arms. And when it’s not in my arms, I look for another way to make a play. A big block, anything.” . . .
As for the backfield depth chart behind Wilson, Beamer says senior Josh Oglesby is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 tailback. There is, however, an interesting battle to be the team’s third running back. Redshirt sophomore Tony Gregory, who is coming back from a torn ACL, is still the leader for that spot, but freshman Michael Holmes is making a push for playing time. . . .
In other news, fullbacks Martin Scales and Joey Phillips and wide receiver Corey Fuller have been put on scholarship for this season by Coach Frank Beamer. Phillips led all receivers with three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s scrimmage. He’s been splitting snaps on the first team with Scales.
Fuller, the older brother of cornerback Kyle, is the front runner to be the Hokies’ sixth wide receiver this year.