- - Sunday, August 19, 2012

BLACKSBURG — J.C. Coleman didn’t wait to hear from the trainers or coaches. After suffering a fracture in his right hand during practice Friday, Coleman made it clear he’d be available to participate full speed in Saturday’s Virginia Tech football scrimmage at Lane Stadium.

Was there any hesitation about playing the true freshman tailback in a scrimmage so soon after the injury?

“Certainly for our standpoint,” Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “But none from his whatsoever.”

Playing with a hard cast under his glove, Coleman turned in a big day, perhaps entrenching himself as the Hokies’ backup tailback. He carried four times for 54 yards, part of a surprisingly effective preseason debut for the Tech offense, which was able to move the ball against the team’s more vaunted defensive unit.

Coleman picked up 52 of his yards on an impressive burst early in the scrimmage.

Though just, 5-foot-8 and 192 pounds, Coleman ran through at least two tacklers on the play, then used his speed to pull away before being caught inside the 5-yard line.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Coleman said. “I saw a little hole and I hit it. I felt a couple guys bounce off of me. And next thing I know, my eyes got real big and I saw a lot of green in front of me.”

But it wasn’t Coleman’s big play that impressed coaches and teammates most Saturday. It was his toughness. Coleman suffered the injury during practice Friday, but didn’t leave the field.

Quarterback Logan Thomas, who was 8-for-15 for 112 yards and a touchdown Saturday, said that’s something he noticed.

“J.C.’s a competitor,” Thomas said. “We wouldn’t expect anything less. He practiced the whole practice with it. I didn’t hear him complain once.”

Stinespring said Coleman told the staff he suffered a similar injury in high school and was able to play through it. He wanted to do the same thing Saturday.

And after the scrimmage, Coleman admitted he carried the ball mostly in his left hand, because it was hard to secure it with the injured right. He said he took pain medication before the scrimmage to help get him through.

“By the time I got out there and saw all the fans and everything and my blood started pumping, I didn’t feel it at all,” Coleman said.

Stinespring said Coleman’s insistence to play through the injury is a sign of just how committed the rookie is to earning time this year. He enrolled in school early, joining the Hokies for spring practice to get a head start on learning the offense.
Coleman also has bulked up, gaining 23 pounds since his senior year at Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake.

“In the spring, I couldn’t really bounce off of guys like I did in that one run,” Coleman said. “I knew that myself, coming out of the spring, and even coming into the spring, that I needed to put on some weight.”

Coleman said most of his gains came this summer in the Tech weightlifting program.

Coleman is battling for playing time in a crowded-but-young backfield. Redshirt sophomore Michael Holmes has emerged as the Hokies’ No. 1 back this preseason. Saturday, he carried three times for 21 yards, with his long run being a 10-yarder.
Senior Martin Scales, a converted fullback, junior Tony Gregory, coming off a knee injury, and freshman Trey Edmunds also are in the mix.

Edmunds had 45 yards on eight carries, Gregory scored a 26-yard touchdown and Scales had an 11-yard gain on one of his two attempts.

Missing a scrimmage would have been a setback for Coleman.

“I wasn’t going to let a hand slow me down,” Coleman said.

And his head coach noticed.

“He didn’t have a fractured foot, I can tell you that,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer said with a laugh.

Note: Junior linebacker Tariq Edwards did not dress for the scrimmage. Edwards was on the sideline on crutches after having a surgical screw removed from his left leg Monday. Apparently, that might be where he is when the Hokies open the football season. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said he doesn’t anticipate Edwards being ready to play for the Hokies in the Sept. 3 season opener against Georgia Tech.

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