After a Rough 2021 Opener, What's Next for Hokies Running Back Keshawn King?
There wasn't much to complain about in Virginia Tech's 17-10 season-opening upset of #10 North Carolina on Friday night, but if we were to pick one disappointment, it would be in sophomore running back Keshawn King.
King burst onto the scene as a change-of-pace back as a true freshman in 2019, rushing for 340 yards on 79 carries and two touchdowns, leading many to believe that he would be an impact playmaker heading into the 2020 season.
However, it didn't turn out to be the case.
Like many on Tech's roster in the COVID-riddled 2020 season, King contracted COVID-19 and was rumored to be battling weight issues entering the season - being underweight, not overweight. That rumor lends some credence when considering that King did not post a single carry last season.
2021 is supposed to be different - at least that's what we thought entering the opener. King was praised consistently throughout camp for the shape that he was in, and how he looked running the football in the practices leading up to the season. He was listed as a co-starter at running back, joining Jalen Holston and Raheem Blackshear as lead runners for the Hokies.
In addition to running back duties, King also reemerged in the kick return game, beginning the season as the starting return man on the depth chart.
All was going great on paper, until it didn't in the opener against the Tar Heels.
With Virginia Tech leading 7-0 in the first quarter, and driving on its second possession of the game, Keshawn King took a handoff and powered forward to around the North Carolina 10-yard-line, and fumbled.
Carolina took over, and Virginia Tech lost the opportunity to begin the game with two consecutive scores.
King finished the contest with three carries for two yards and the fumble, and did not see many snaps after his first quarter fumble.
From the naked eye, it appeared that King was in the doghouse. The truth is that he probably was, but Justin Fuente wouldn't let that narrative percolate when asked by the media about King's status on Monday.
"I told him that he was going to go back in, and that he wasn't done for the day and that he needed to stay ready. Obviously he has to hold onto the ball, he knows that. We didn't deliberately not have him carry the ball because of that, we did rotate him in a little bit, and it's something he knows and understands and he's perfectly capable of doing it. He's plenty strong enough and plenty tough enough to do that and feel good that he will. What I told him was, that I don't like what happened, but I'm not down on you. You've got to keep your head up and get ready to go back in the game."
King is certainly more relevant to the running back room discussion than he was a season ago, but can he put his fumbling behind him? If not, we may be seeing an even bigger dose of Blackshear and Holston, and perhaps even Marco Lee or Tahj Gary.
Let's see how King emerges this Saturday against Middle Tennessee State.