- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Branden Ore talks a lot about finding open space. On a Virginia Tech offense lacking firepower, Ore finds the most space between himself and the other members of the Hokies’ backfield.

“I think he’s a complete back,” coach Frank Beamer said after Saturday’s win over North Carolina. “He’ll block for you, he’ll protect, he can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He gets tough yards. He can bounce it outside and take it. He’s a real threat.”

One of the most popular story lines of the preseason — the injured running back took the spring semester off to rehab after shoulder surgery and recommit himself to school, then spent the summer working in a 7-Eleven warehouse — got even better last week when Ore rushed for 111 yards and scored three touchdowns on 22 carries against North Carolina.

The 5-foot-11, 202-pound redshirt sophomore from Chesapeake, Va., was terse after gaining an anti-climactic 54 yards against I-AA Northeastern two weeks ago but was loose and relaxed after Saturday’s victory.

“Every week I come out ready to play,” Ore said. “If I got to carry my team every week, then that’s what I do.”

It looks like Ore will have to do exactly that. In addition to being the leading rusher last week, the tailback caught two passes for 37 yards. Rather than have so much depending on one set of legs, running backs coach Billy Hite long has preferred to use two runners on game day. Only Ore, however, has emerged as a reliable replacement for the graduated Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh.

In an effort to spark productivity, the Hokies shuffled the depth chart at tailback Monday afternoon. Redshirt freshman Elan Lewis is now tied at No. 2 with third-year sophomore George Bell, who had three carries for 8 yards before losing a fumble on third down and being yanked from the North Carolina game.

“Branden Ore, he’s just one guy,” Lewis said. “And one guy can go down at any time. Somebody’s going to have to step up.”

This Saturday’s home game against Duke would be an ideal time for that elusive player to emerge.

In addition to Elan Lewis moving ahead of Bell, 21-year-old true freshman Kenny Lewis Jr., who didn’t even dress for the first two games and is expected to redshirt this year, moved up from the scout team this week.

Injuries have plagued the field of potential relievers. On Tuesday, Beamer said he was concerned about Bell’s explosiveness after the former high school All-American’s massive knee surgery to repair torn cartilage and ligaments.

Elan Lewis also has battled knee problems, but says he’s fine to play. At 5-9, he has dropped 14 pounds from a sturdy 238 in the spring. The 5-9, 195-pound Kenny Lewis, who was drafted into the Cincinnati Reds organization in 2003 and enrolled at Virginia Tech the second semester of last year, tweaked an ankle in spring practice and then a hamstring in the summer, limiting his ability to battle for a spot in the rotation.

While Ore is enjoying his success, he said Saturday he expects a running mate to help share the load.

“We always run a two-back system,” he said. “That’s no problem with me. I mean, as long as you’ve get a fresh guy back there and it gives the defense something different to look to.”

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