BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech got a little more transfer work done Friday before the start of the new semester, flipping portal running back Bhayshul Tuten, who’d previously been committed to Boston College.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Tuten was a third-team FCS All-American as a sophomore last year for North Carolina A&T, where he ran for 1,363 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 31 catches for 342 yards and four more touchdowns .
It’s been a change of plans!🦃 pic.twitter.com/EjeetdHQAq
— Bhayshul Tuten (@bhayshul) January 14, 2023
The Paulsboro, NJ, product, which originally committed to Boston College on Dec. 24, was one of 30 finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding player at the FCS level. He’s a junior with two years of eligibility remaining.
What does Tuten bring to the Hokies?
He was a workhorse for the Aggies last year, carrying it 208 times. The last Hokie to reach 200 carries in a season was quarterback Jerod Evans with 204 in 2016. The last tailback to do it was Travon McMillan, who hit it on the dot in 2015.
Tuten had seven games with 15 or more carries last season and topped 100 yards 10 times, including a 256-yard effort against Campbell. He had multiple touchdowns in six games and proved to be an effective pass-catcher, albeit at a lower level.
Though the Hokies have question marks on the offensive line, which didn’t exactly excel last fall, Tuten proved to be a tough runner, with 904 of his rushing yards coming after contact, according to Pro Football Focus, the fifth-most in the FCS. His 74 missed tackles forced were tied for fourth nationally and he had 42 carries of 10-plus yards.
Keshawn King led the Hokies with 238 yards after contact and 19 missed tackles forced. The Hokies had 43 carries of 10-plus yards as a team.
How does the running back room stack up with Tuten?
Running back was one of the positions Hokies head coach Brent Pry highlighted when talking about transfer needs on signing day. Overall, the Hokies had the 113th-ranked rushing offense nationally, averaging just 110.8 yards per game.
With Malachi Thomas injured for most of last year, Virginia Tech didn’t have any back rush for more than King’s 443 yards. King averaged 6.0 yards per carry, the only tailback to top 4.0, but was frequently nicked up, missing two games outright and limited to just one carry against Miami.
Thomas, the team’s most promising returner after showing out as a freshman in 2021, suffered multiple ankle/foot injuries, one in the preseason and one at NC State, that limited him to just three games, 37 carries and 146 yards.
Jalen Holstonwho had a career game in the finale against Liberty with 99 yards and three touchdowns, exhausted his eligibility. Chance Black (2.8 per carry) and Bryce Duke (3.3) had meager production in limited opportunities.
Tuten and Thomas would be a good 1-2 punch in the backfield, with King, who’s been injury prone in his career, possibly more effective if the Hokies use him more situationally. He’s the most explosive runner on the team but only once has had more than 13 carries in a game — last year’s opener against ODU, when he carried it 19 times for 111 yards. He had only 10 carried the next three weeks after suffering an undisclosed injury against Boston College.
What does this do to the numbers at RB?
It’s bloated again. Pry and Co. whittled down an unwieldy room that had 10 scholarship backs when they arrived last winter to six by the time August rolled around.
As it stands right now, the Hokies have eight scholarship running backs — King, Tuten, Thomas, Black, Duke, Kenji Christian and 2023 signees Jeremiah Coney and Tralon Mitchell. That’s likely far too many to hold.
Some are versatile enough positionally that they could help the Hokies in other ways. Duke, who got short-yardage work last year, played plenty on kick returns, and both King and Black have taken reps as receivers before. But with the first transfer portal window closing next week, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an entry (or two) from the running back room.
(Photo: Ben McKeown / AP)