Every grand building starts with a strong foundation and in football this foundation is the offensive line. Without it, no play would be possible.
The offensive line has been a downfall for the Hokies for years. Poor hands and fouls have cost the team yards and plays in recent seasons.
In 2014 the line gave up 48 sacks as opposed to 32 in the past season. While the numbers are going down this still averages just below 2.5 sacks a game.
As we head into the season I took a look at the depth of the line and what we can expect in terms of starters and playing depth on the roster.
Yosuah Nijman has this position locked up. He started all 14 games last season securing a strong block on the blind side. With his lean 6’7″ 300 lb frame expect him to continue to be a solid anchor on his side of the line.
T.J. Jackson has been playing behind Nijman after completing his red shirt year. He had an impressive High School career and will be a steady backup upon the conclusion of summer camp.
Wyatt Teller has had this position locked since he arrived in Blacksburg. He continues to be one of the better guards in the nation but his twitchy tendencies have cause many fans to have a love- hate relationship with him. Now that Teller has had a full year under Vice and has significant amounts of playing time expect this to tone down quite a bit. If Teller can really hone in on his technique, I believe he can cause quite a stir to the opposing defense.
Guards behind him are tricky but right now I can see D’Andre Plantin behind teller. Plantin got some reps at right guard during the spring due to injuries. However, with his size and speed he could be utilized on both sides of the line. Plantin played tackle in high school which can help him secure a better block.
This is the team’s weakest position on the line. Year after year there have been a fair share of bad snaps and poor communication between the QB and the center. This year could be the year fans can expect to see a change.
Eric Gallo will start as center. Being the most experienced in the position on the roster he will have to adjust to snapping the ball to the third starting quarterback in his time here. Gallo is now a senior and, like Teller, has a year under Vice completed. Consistency will be a major focal point going into this year.
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Behind Gallo will follow Kyle Chung. These two have interchanged playing time throughout their time here. Injuries have plagued Chung’s career consequently hurting his game time. If Chung can stay healthy and hone in on his hands, there could be a more split playing time between the two as the season progresses.
Behind them would be Austin Cannon and Patrick Kearns. Both young players coming off their red shirt year. They should have decent playing time on the special teams unit and may even see some garbage time play pending their summer performance and injury status as the season progresses.
The Hokies have a lot to figure out on the right side of the line after losing Augie Conte and Jon Mclaughlin. Both were leaders on the line as well as a solid anchor on the QB side. Parker Osterloh sat out the spring due to injury but is the man for the job. After serving as a solid number two on right guard for a few years, he is the obvious successor for the position. Not having a single start in his career could show some rough edges early on but expect him to ease into the role nicely.
There are two guards that come to mind to follow Osterloh; Demetri Moore and Braxton Pfaff. Moore sat out the spring as well due to injury and Pfaff took most of the reps with the 1’s during the spring while Osterloh was out. His summer performance could dictate where he stands on the depth chart but these two will have time to develop behind Osterloh Nicely.
Now this may come as a surprise to a few but Tyrell Smith has been consistently taking reps with the 1’s at this position and looks like he may have the start. Smith came in from Don Bosco Prep in 2015 as a center and his 6’3″ 295 lb frame could give him an advantage in terms of quickness. Something to look for is how his size matches up against edge rushers.
Behind him Jarrett Hopple has a good role as number 2. His much larger frame is that of a tackle but coming he can use a little more time to develop coming fresh off his red shirt.
Silas Dzansi and Zachariah Hoyt should be taking a red shirt this year. Conor Bailey, Matt Christ, Billy Ray Mitchell Kevin Kish and Connor Kish still ave a lot more work to do before they see significant playing time, but should earn some chances with special teams.
Vance Vice has stressed the importance of keeping his players versatile so many players, especially guards, could be moved around quite a bit throughout the season.