BLACKSBURG—— In the past three years, tailback Ryan Williams hasn't had a feeling anywhere close to the one he enjoyed after Friday's scrimmage at Virginia Tech.
After an injury-plagued senior season at Stonewall Jackson High in Manassas, and a redshirt season at Tech, Williams was back where he feels most comfortable on a football field — in a starring role. He had eight carries for 122 yards and a touchdown while playing mostly against the second-team defense in Tech's first full scrimmage of spring practice.
"I was happy, but me knowing what I'm capable of doing, I didn't feel like I was really where I need to be at as far as cutting ability, my vision," Williams said. "This is the first time I really played with contact and really felt physically ready and mentally ready since like my junior year of high school, because my senior year of high school was kind of cut short because I almost blew my ankle out. I'm getting there. … Once I get there, there's going to be a lot more to come."
Williams, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound redshirt freshman, is competing with Josh Oglesby for Tech's backup tailback role behind starter Darren Evans. Oglesby had nine carries for 28 yards in the scrimmage.
The highlight of the 85-play scrimmage came when Williams took a handoff, broke through the middle behind the first-team offensive line and ran 80 yards for a touchdown against the second-team defense. It was his first carry of the day.
Last season, Williams came to Tech considered by many recruiting analysts to be one of the nation's top three running-back prospects. His understanding of blocking responsibilities left something to be desired and kept him off the field. After the scrimmage, Tech coach Frank Beamer expressed optimism Williams is getting it.
"You kind of expect him to continue to get better with his blocking and so forth, and he will," Beamer said.
Williams has made recognizing his blocking duties a priority. He thinks he has made huge leaps since the start of last season.
"I didn't know who to block (last season) or which people to block or anything like that, but now I'm feeling really comfortable and I'm picking up my blocks the way I'm supposed to," Williams said. "I mean, I'm blocking people I never thought I'd be able to block. John Graves is probably one of the biggest people I've ever met in my life, and I'm picking him up (on blocks)."
While Williams and Oglesby got most of the carries Friday, Evans contributed with six carries for 16 yards. Evans gained a Tech freshman-record 1,265 yards last season and entered this spring with nothing to prove. On the other hand, for Williams, spring practice has become the ultimate proving ground.
"He's been anxious," Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said.
"He's been looking forward to this opportunity. … He has tools. Those tools showed up (Friday). He has the ability to make people miss. He has the ability to break tackles. He's got vision and he's got a step to him. In any offense, you'd like to have someone that's capable of making people miss and breaking tackles and getting extra yardage."
a-College Kickoff in Atlanta
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Sept. 12 Marshall
Sept. 19 Nebraska
Sept. 26 Miami
Oct. 3 at Duke
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Oct. 29 North Carolina
Nov. 5 at East Carolina
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Nov. 21 N.C. State
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