Offensive line play will be one of the main keys for the Hokies in 2009. But if you listen to Berry Tramel from the Oklahoman, that makes Virginia Tech behind the times in college football.
Tramel wrote Saturday the spread formation has made offensive lines less of a factor in today's college football. The fast-paced, high-flying offenses in today's college football world has taken away the need for a solid line.
We know that isn't true in the ACC. We're a primarily run-first league with solid defenses that exposes weak offensive lines. When the Hokies struggled at the beginning of 2007 and 2008 before the offensive line became healthy and helped pave the way to two conference titles.
Clemson faced high preseason expectations and fell flat because its offensive line struggled. Georgia Tech saw some success with its new flexbone offensive at the beginning of 2008. But it wasn't until its offensive line play improved in the second half of the season that the Yellow Jackets really started to roll up big numbers.
In my opinion, even spread teams need good offensive lines. Yes, Oklahoma was able to put up record numbers on the scoreboard last year. But not all of that was because of the arm of Heisman winner Sam Bradford. The Sooners were able to open things up for the passing game and salt away wins because both Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray ran for over 1,000 yards last year. OU actually ran the ball more than it throw it in conference play, 387 rushes against 342 passing attempts.
Against Florida in the BCSCG, the Sooners had a lot of success through the air. But they lost in part because they couldn't stick the ball in the end zone on the ground in the red zone. In OU's two losses, it managed only 1.9 YPC against Texas and 3.69 YPC against Florida. Those were two of its lowest outputs.
I think because OU has to replace four of its five starters on the offensive line it won't make it back to the national title game and will struggle to put up anywhere near the offensive numbers from last season.
Florida has three of its five starters back on the offensive line and has a much better chance of returning to the BCSCG in my opinion.
Then there's the example Tramel points to in his column. The Texas Tech Red Raiders have put up huge offensive numbers since Mike Leach arrived in 1999. But it wasn't until last year that Texas Tech finally competed for a national title. I think the offensive line had a lot to do with it. The Raiders finally had a quality offensive line that gave their quarterback time to throw even against quality defenses.
The skill players are the body of the sports car. The offensive line is the engine. Without a good offensive line, your offense is going nowhere.
What do you think? Are offensive lines becoming obsolete in college football? Tramel thinks they are and I obviously think they're just as important as they were before the rise of the spread formation.