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Hokies’ Williams looks for big finish

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BLACKSBURG, Va. | Tailback Ryan Williams' encore season at Virginia Tech hasn't gone the way he hoped because of a torn left hamstring that caused him to miss 4½ games.

A 142-yard day that included an 84-yard TD run at Miami last week suggested he's close to 100 percent now — just in time to have an impact down the stretch. The No. 13 Hokies close their regular season Saturday against rival Virginia, and then play for the ACC Championship.

"I'm fresh," he said with a smile Tuesday. "I'm very fresh, I guess."

The Hokies (9-2, 7-0 ACC) have won nine straight, and six in a row in the series.

The Cavaliers (4-7, 1-6) have lost three in a row and last won at Lane Stadium in 1998.

Williams isn't all the way over the injury, but said he's as close as he will get this season, and hoping a big finish will help clarify where he stands in the minds of NFL teams.

"Before the season, the thoughts were really there," he said of leaving school and heading to the NFL, "and then I got hurt with a torn hamstring and everything of that sort.

"The season I had wasn't what I wanted, and I know my stock really dropped. As of right now, I really don't know. All I know is I want to finish the season strong, and I proved to myself and a lot of people that I'm back to being the playmaker that I can be, and I've just got to continue throughout the rest of the season, and we'll see where that goes."

The Hokies have used three tailbacks when all were healthy this season, with Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson rotating into the lineup. Each gets the bulk of the carries in their series. It's a system that pays homage to their talent, but also has another benefit.

"You look at it and all of them run hard and all of them have a different style, but when you can keep 'em fresh and eager, that's a good thing to have," coach Frank Beamer said. "This time of year, there's a lot of guys beat up. I think ours are fresh and ready to go."

Especially Williams.

At this time a year ago, Williams had carried 244 times on his way to running for an ACC freshman record 1,655 yards. He also set ACC marks with 21 rushing touchdowns, and 22 TDs.

This year, he's carried just 88 times for 402 yards and seven touchdowns.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who also took up some of the rushing slack early in the season as the offensive line worked to come together, welcomes having Williams playing again.

"David and Darren have taken some blows this year and been through some physical games," said Taylor, who is second on the team in rushing. "So having a fresh guy like Ryan, not playing as many snaps as those guys, it gives us fresh legs to go out there and make a play."

Evans has 678 yards and nine TDs; Taylor 589 and four TDs; and Wilson 490 and four TDs.

Williams, meanwhile, said he will be glad to slide back into the rotation, and feels no pressure to use the rest of the season to show NFL scouts that he's still the same player.

"The pressure about leaving or thinking about the NFL, there's really no pressure, no pressure at all to me," he said. "I'm just doing what I do, I'm balling, and when the time comes for me to make a decision, then I'll talk to the people I need to talk about and then I'll make my decision, but for now, I'm not thinking about that. I'm focusing on this week."

 

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