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Tech's Offensive Line is Very Experienced
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #488, June 10, 2011
Virginia Tech will have a senior-laden group of offensive linemen in 2011. Four of the five projected starters have started at least one season in Blacksburg, and the one player who has never started a game is probably the most talented of the entire group.
The Hokies are also expected to have more depth this season, and three or four backups could potentially see playing time as part of a rotation.
Behind that offensive line, the Hokies averaged 198.7 yards per game last season, and 4.9 yards per carry. Darren Evans averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and David Wilson averaged 5.5. This is a line that blocked everyone they played in the running game, with the exception of Boise State and Stanford.
Where the line must improve is in pass protection. The Hokies allowed 34 sacks last season. Tech did improve last year over past seasons, but then they allowed eight sacks in the Orange Bowl loss to Stanford, which hurt their numbers quite a bit. With four seniors in the lineup, there shouldn't be any communication issues.
A few other guys are expected to be able to contribute this season. Michael Via (6-7, 285, r-Jr.) started two games at center in 2009, and he is capable of getting reps at center or offensive tackle. David Wang (6-1, 301, r-So.) started at guard this spring with Greg Nosal out, and the line didn't seem to miss a beat. He could help out at left guard and right guard this year.
Nick Becton (6-6, 313, r-Jr.) split time with Andrew Lanier at left tackle last season, and is expected to do the same this year. He might be Tech's most athletically gifted lineman, but he needs to get more aggressive and tougher. Vinston Painter (6-6, 296, r-Jr.) is also a much-improved player who can be counted on for decent depth.
Of Tech's top nine offensive linemen, the youngest are r-sophomores. David Wang and Andrew Miller are entering their third year in the program, and both players appear ready for a lot of playing time. Everyone else listed above is either a r-junior or a r-senior. Almost all of Tech's two-deep is stacked with experience. If Courtney Prince (6-2, 286, r-Jr.) can win one of the backup jobs at guard, then the entire two-deep will be third year players or older.
It took a bit longer than Tech fans would have liked, but the Hokies have done a very nice job in re-stocking the talent on the offensive line. A few years ago, the Hokies were starting a player or two who most likely wouldn't even be in the two-deep right now. That's progress.
With such an experienced group up front, I think it's fair to demand a couple of things this year. First, the offensive line needs to get off to a good start this year. This group has been together for a long time, so there are no excuses for a slow start. Second, the pass protection needs to improve. With four seniors up front, there will be no excuse for giving up a lot of sacks yet again.
If the offensive line can do both of those things this year, then the entire offense is probably going to be very good.
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