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Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams is only thinking of this season, for now

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams is helped off the field after suffering an injury against East Carolina at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 18.
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams is helped off the field after suffering an injury against East Carolina at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 18. (Steve Helber/associated Press)
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By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010; 12:41 AM

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Worrying how an injury will affect the future is nothing new for Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams. As a sophomore at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, he underwent serious knee surgery, and then during his senior season he battled an ankle injury that ultimately prevented him from earning All-Met honors.

Neither of those setbacks stopped him from being a four-star recruit and accepting a scholarship to play for Virginia Tech. Williams can only hope it turns out as fortuitously now that he's a third-year sophomore trying to overcome a nagging hamstring injury.

The stakes are much higher this time around with the Hokies fighting for the ACC Coastal Division title and Williams pondering his own future.

"I rarely think about it when people talk to me, but I know I'm an NFL-bound player," Williams said Monday when asked about declaring for the NFL draft. "I just know how I handled business before and then I start thinking about the bigger picture and then I feel like I start losing focus and start thinking more about me than what I need to do for my team."

Coming off a 2009 campaign in which he set the ACC freshman record with 1,655 rushing yards, the 2010 season has not gone according to plan for Williams. After a slow start that saw him average just 3.2 yards per carry in the Hokies' first two losses, Williams suffered a slight tear of his right hamstring in the second quarter of Virginia Tech's win over East Carolina on Sept. 18.

He missed the next four games, and since returning to the lineup three weeks ago against Duke, he's seen limited action while splitting carries with junior Darren Evans and sophomore David Wilson. For the year, Williams has just 179 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Williams has embraced the platoon system running backs coach Billy Hite has employed since he returned to the field, a development he attributed to his previous experiences sharing the backfield in high school. Williams said his hamstring won't be 100 percent healthy until after the season, but hopes the numbers he put up a year ago are proof enough of his talent.

Despite the injury, Williams still is among the top running backs in the country according to most NFL draft projections. Hite said this week that "if Ryan would happen to be a number one draft pick, I'd throw him out" of school, but that "while we are in this stretch right now, his total focus needs to be with Virginia Tech and not the NFL draft."

For his part, Williams refused to put a number on his chances of returning to Blacksburg next year. He said once the regular season is complete, he'll have a more definitive answer. That, though, doesn't mean his departure is imminent.

"The best thing about being here for me is playing for the fans," Williams said. "Words can't describe how they make me feel and how I feed off of them when I'm out there. I would love to come back and play in Lane Stadium for another season."

Wilson, Drager are out

After losing wide receiver Dyrell Roberts for the season when he underwent emergency surgery last weekend after developing compartment syndrome in his thigh, Virginia Tech got more bad news on the injury front Tuesday.

The team announced that Wilson has mononucleosis and defensive end Chris Drager is suffering from lingering effects from a head injury he suffered in last Thursday's win over Georgia Tech. Both have been ruled out of this weekend's crucial Coastal Division tilt against North Carolina.

Coach Frank Beamer said Williams would likely take over Wilson's kick returning duties along with running back Tony Gregory. Redshirt freshmen J.R. Collins and James Gayle will combine to replace Drager.

giannottom@washpost.com


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