Yesterday we covered A.J. Hughes, the punter for Virginia Tech this season (for now, at least). Today we are going to look at the big uglies, aka the offensive line. This group might be the most important for Virginia Tech football this season.
Nick Becton, David Wang, Andrew Miller, Vinston Painter – The Known Starters
You have probably heard the talking points – that is – that Virginia Tech lost four of its starting offensive linemen from last season. Because of this, Virginia Tech supposedly lacks experience on the offensive line. Well – what people fail to mention (perhaps willingly or otherwise) is that this year’s starters on the offensive line have a combined 600 snaps between them. Now, that’s certainly far from the experience of last year’s offensive line, but it’s not like they’re in no-man’s land. That’s an average of 120 snaps per player last season. The math doesn’t exactly work out like that, but you get the gist. This group isn’t as inexperienced as you might be led to believe.
In fact, this group might have an advantage over last year’s group of offensive linemen in the fact that this group should be better run-blockers than last year’s group. Last year, we saw David Wilson struggling to run between the tackles, and this group should provide the plethora of running backs better opportunities to play some smashmouth football thanks to a general improvement in the athleticism of the linemen this year.
In saying that, this group might have some holes in pass protection. In the open scrimmages, we saw very up and down performances from the offensive line in terms of pass-pro. Sometimes the offensive line held their own and handled Virginia Tech’s very talented defensive line. Other times Logan Thomas was touched (sacked) pretty quickly after the snap, not nearly enough time to get a pass off in an actual game situation.
If this group can get their act together in pass protection, and stay stingy in the run-blocking department, this group should give Virginia Tech’s offense a chance to own the TOP (time of possession) battle. Against a team like Georgia Tech, that battle is critical in order to give Virginia Tech’s defense some rest.
Brent Benedict and Michael Via – The Unknown Starters
One of these two players will start for the Hokies on Monday against Georgia Tech. The problem is we don’t exactly know who that’s going to be yet, seeing as both are listed as co-number one’s on Virginia Tech’s official depth chart. If I had to take a guess, I would think Michael Via gets the nod over Benedict for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, Via has been in Virginia Tech’s system for five years now, and he knows the in’s and out’s of this system better than Benedict does. Against a team like Georgia Tech, which has some very talented athletes on the defensive side of the ball, the offense will need to be on the same page. It’s my opinion that Via would probably mesh better at right guard immediately than Benedict would.
Secondly, Benedict hasn’t looked as good as he has the ability to thus far through the summer. Benedict was coming off an injury and hadn’t played in quite some time, so it’s natural to expect him to take awhile to get back into his groove completely. This isn’t a shot at Benedict, but he just hasn’t been as advertised so far. That’s not to say the situation is dire or that he’s been flailing in the wind out there completely helpless. Actually, Benedict has done a good job of holding his own against a very athletic, talented group of defensive linemen. Via has just been the better, more experienced lineman so far, and that’s what you need when a game of this magnitude is on the line.
Regardless of who starts at right guard, both of these players will see their fair share of snaps against Georgia Tech on Monday. In a game like this you need to have all of your key players on the same page, and Via probably gives Virginia Tech the best chemistry on the line.
Some people have been very wary of the offensive line as a whole, and rightfully so. They lost some quality players last season. However, I wouldn’t write this group off just yet – they have the ability to surprise some people.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the other big uglies, Virginia Tech’s defensive line.