FanPost

Hokies Offensive Line Woes Continue to Hamper the Program

 

[Ed. Note: Promoted from FanPosts. French appears to be fired up this week.]

I always look to the 2003 season as the year the Hokies really lost their identity. First the wide-tackle six defense finally died as the Hokies were torched by Pittsburgh, UVA, Boston College, and California to end the season. But, more subtly, the Hokies adjusted their offensive line scheme from a power I principles that featured the speed option, dive option, power, counter, and toss sweep's, to more of a zone blocking concept. I perceived this change as a way of keeping Kevin Jones in school and drawing the interest of more top level talent on offense. In a sense, it has worked. Tech has recruited some top level tailbacks in Ryan Williams and David Wilson, plus the Hokies have seen their wide receiver talent pool go through the roof since the change. But, something was lost.

 

The Hokies teams of the 90's were built on a bully mentality, both offensively and defensively. Initially, when the technique change was made, the bigger, lumbering, offensive linemen would create massive holes up front, but backside linebackers would be able to scrape  and fill the holes quickly. Jon Dunn was the poster child of a Hokie offensive lineman who could not get to the second level. Slowly, the Hokies transitioned to the new system by recruiting smaller, more athletic offensive linemen, and in a couple of cases, landed some big recruits. Sadly, these lighter players (often tight ends who were moved to the interior line) could get to the second level, but have been dominated at the point of attack big NFL caliber defensive linemen. The Tech running game has become finesse oriented, with most of the successful runs taking place on the outside, or on counter plays. The inability to run on short yardage highlights this problem.

*I could write an additional blog on the struggles with pass protection, some of which falls in the lap of quarterback coaching (where players are clearly instructed to hold onto the ball to make plays and all the play designs require at least 5 to 7 step drops.)

What is even more disturbing with this trend, is that the Hokies have landed some high level recruits yet they have not been able to get on the field. Aaron Brown never got better and dealt with a severe shoulder injury. Blake DeChristopher is the one Hokie starting lineman who is too big for his position. Vinson Painter can't get on the field even though A) Greg Nosal played the whole season with a torn labrum and B) somehow Nick Marshman actually saw the field in his career. Michael Via has the body type of the quintessential tackle, but somehow started out as a center and is still learning the tackle position. Why can't these guys get on the field or be used in the right way? Either the coaching staff is not making the correct choices (ie, a seeming hatred of playing offensive linemen before they are redshirt juniors) or the talent those players have exhibited in high school is not translating to college.

I am not sure how to fix the situation. The Hokies have a ton of options for offensive line next year and there are many potential combinations. Here is my proposed depth chart.

Left Tackle: Laurence Gibson/ Nick Becton

Left Guard: Vinston Painter/Greg Nosal

Center: Andrew Miller

Right Guard: Jaymes Brooks/Blake DeChristopher

Right Tackle: Michael Via/ Nick Becton

Tight End: Andrew Lainer

Yes, use the Stanford theory, and use big bruising good blocking tight ends. Lainer was overmatched as a tackle, but as a tight end he brings back the tackle mentality. Unless Austin Fuller moves to tight end next year, I don't think the Hokies will have a receiving threat at the position. Since I don't think the powers that be want to return to the I style blocking scheme (even though they have used more I principles this season than in recent memory) I think the utilization of a blocking tight end could get their power game back to where it belongs.

Thank you for the responses to my first blog. I look forward to your feedback.

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