CHARLOTTE NC - DECEMBER 04: Darren Evans #32 of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrates with teammates Greg Nosal #75 Jaymes Brooks #68 and Beau Warren #60 after scoring a touchdown during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Bank of America Stadium on December 4 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Virginia Tech returns four of five starting offensive linemen from last year' ACC championship team. You think that'd put them among the most experienced offensive lines in the ACC Coastal going into the 2011 season. However, as we'll find out, in only puts them in the middle of the pack.
After the jump we look at the returning starts from regular season conference games in 2010 and the average weight for the projected 2011 offensive line for all six coastal teams. It's debatable whether or not offensive line experience and size has any corollary to offensive success, but it will allow us to draw some conclusions about the teams vying for the Coastal crown.
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Disclaimer: If you're a fan of any of these teams and would like to dispute these numbers, please email at gobblercountry-at-gmail-dot-com so I can correct them. The starts were done by hand for some teams and the projected 2011 lineups were cobbled together using logic and innuendo for some of them. In most cases where a starter was unknown I just went with the heaviest guy on the depth chart to give the team the benefit of the doubt.
In addition to being the heaviest line in the division, Miami also has the highest percentage of starts returning from last year. The assumption is that it would lead to continuity and the ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. You can assume that Miami's rushing offense will again be good in 2011 after it averaged 5.3 yards per carry in ACC play, second behind Georgia Tech.
Unfortunately for the Canes, rushing offense was never really considered their Achilles' heel last year. That would be the guy charged with handing off the ball and distributing it to the receivers. The inconsistency of Jacory Harris and his many failures on the road, led to a disappointing season for the Canes and the ouster of their head coach. If they can get consistent quarterback play, Miami should have the best offense in the division.
The Hokies have a lot of experience on the line, but that hasn't always helped them in the past. The offensive line seems to hit the reset button every year regardless of how much talent returns. Inconsistent line play has often hurt the Hokies in their quest to be relevant beyond the scope of the ACC and one of the ways it can correct that is by getting bigger up front.
That will happen if Nick Becton is able to take the starting left tackle job away from Andrew Lanier. At 313 pounds, Becton is 31 pounds heavier than Lanier. Insert him into the starting lineup and the Hokies average weight on the line goes up to 300.6. Size doesn't always guarantee a line will be good, but it will probably lead to more consistency because you're not going to face many mismatches from the opponents' defensive line.
Size also doesn't really matter to Georgia Tech, which is going to recruit a different kind of offensive lineman for its offense. The Yellow Jackets utilize a lot of cut blocks, which doesn't require hulking linemen. And while size doesn't guarantee success, neither does experience. Sometimes having a lot of returning starters on your offensive line just means you weren't able to recruit anyone better than the guy who struggled last year. Case in point: Duke.
So while these number don't guarantee a team's success or failure up front, it does give us another piece to the puzzle when it comes to analyzing offenses for the upcoming years. The Hurricanes ran the ball well last year, return most of their linemen and are the biggest OL in the division. They should be able to run the ball effectively again.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, return only one running back who contributed last year and have to replace some key components on the offensive line. Their size give them the chance to better succeed this year after averaging 3.5 ypc in ACC play last year, but the inexperience is something to keep an eye on.