QBs Not the Only Thing Ailing the Hokies' Offense

Virginia Tech running back Josh Oglesby averaged only 2.4 yards per carry in losses to BC and Florida State.
Virginia Tech running back Josh Oglesby averaged only 2.4 yards per carry in losses to BC and Florida State. (By Michael Dwyer -- Associated Press)
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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The status of Virginia Tech quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon, both suffering from high-ankle sprains, will garner the most attention entering Thursday night's game against No. 23 Maryland. But the Hokies' move of Jahre Cheeseman from fullback to tailback may be more telling about the state of the Hokies' offense, as it was a revealing indication of how disappointing their rushing attack has been in two straight losses.

Starter Darren Evans and backup Josh Oglesby combined to average 64 yards per game and had no touchdowns in losses to Boston College and Florida State.

"I still think Darren's doing a good job, and Josh is getting better, but we need a spark back there at the tailback spot," running backs coach Billy Hite said.

Cheeseman, a redshirt junior, had been a tailback during his first three seasons at Virginia Tech but was moved to fullback following the second game of this season. With then-starter Kenny Lewis and Evans carrying the load, the coaching staff felt Cheeseman provided tailback-type skills at fullback. But after Lewis suffered a season-ending injury Oct. 4 and with Cheeseman being underutilized, Hite told Cheeseman following last Monday's film session that Cheeseman will return to his natural position.

"This is the spot where I feel most comfortable," Cheeseman said. "I look at myself as a [tailback]. I can play both. I can pick up on the plays. But inside, I think I'm a tailback."

With uncertainty at quarterback, the running game will become even more important against Maryland. Evans said the problem in the losses was that the ballcarriers failed to follow their blockers, and the remedy is to remain in the rushing lanes.

Before Lewis's injury, Evans and Lewis complemented each other. But Oglesby has not yet provided a spark as the backup, and only averaged 2.4 yards per carry in the losses to Boston College and Florida State.

"He does it all the time in practice," Hite said. "He just needs to do it in a game. That's what irritates the heck out of me right now. I can tell you right now: Josh Oglesby is a great talent. And I learned a long time ago never to give up on talent."

Against the Seminoles, Oglesby committed the first fumble by a Hokies running back this season. Hite insisted the decision to move Cheeseman back to tailback had nothing to do with Oglesby's fumble, although the subtext suggests it does have something to do with Oglesby's lack of production. When Hite was asked how Cheeseman would be used, he said Cheeseman would split carries with Oglesby depending on how the game is going. Evans, who has at least 15 carries in the past four games, likely will not see his touches diminished.

"I'm waiting for Josh to have a breakout game," Hite said. "I've been waiting a long time for it."

Evans and Oglesby are redshirt freshmen. Evans said Cheeseman adds experience to the tailbacks, although Evans is beginning to tire of questions about his and Oglesby's inexperience. He insisted that, after eight games, the freshmen have enough experience.

Despite Cheeseman's wishes, the move to tailback might not be permanent. Lewis will return next season, Evans and Oglesby have three more years and the Hokies are currently redshirting talented freshman Ryan Williams. Although Hite could not speak specifically about it, the coaching staff also is anticipating the arrival of heralded running back recruit David Wilson of Danville, Va.

Coach Frank Beamer said the qualities that made the Cheeseman an option at fullback remain, continuing speculation that the return to tailback could be brief. Cheeseman hopes that is not the case. As much as his move to tailback is an indictment of the running game's struggles, it also is his opportunity to persuade the coaches to keep him at the position.

"I'm hoping I can go out there and show them I'm not a fullback," Cheeseman said. "But if they give me a shot at tailback, and I'm not ready, then I'll say it's my fault."

Hokies Note: X-rays were negative for freshman safety Lorenzo Williams, who was thought to have torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. The diagnosis now is a torn posterior lateral complex that will not require surgery. Williams might return this season.

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