It seems like every time the Hokies begin to build depth on the offensive line, injuries take it away. It happened again Saturday when David Wang fractured his right foot in the first half against East Carolina.
Wang, Jaymes Brooks' back-up at right guard, was in for Brooks on a first-half drive that saw the Hokies moving the ball effectively before suffering his injury. The sophomore was beginning to earn snaps by performing well in pre-season practice. In August, offensive line coach Curt Newsome said Wang the back-up he had the most faith in and said he could wind up backing up both guard positions.
Now the Hokies will turn to their Swiss-Army offensive lineman, Michael Via, to help provide depth at guard. Via was also a back-up at right tackle and center before missing the first two games of the year with a sprained left knee. Now, freshman Caleb Farris is listed as the back-up center and Vinston Painter the back-up right tackle.
Wang was one of only two second-string offensive lineman to play offensive snaps against East Carolina. The other, back-up left tackle Nick Becton, split the offensive snaps nearly 50-50 with starter Andrew Lanier. This has been a common theme for the Hokies in recent years. The back-ups rarely get any meaningful snaps unless it's in mop-up duty and the continuity completely disappears if there's an injury to a starter.
This year, Via had experience in the second string and got hurt. Then Wang started to earn the confidence of the coaches in practice and show he could replicate that in games and got hurt. The Hokies need guys like Becton and Vinston Painter to get to the point where if there's an injury to a starting offensive lineman everything doesn't go to hell.
Tech's offensive line is playing well, but as our friend French points out in this week's offensive line review for The Key Play, there's plenty of room for improvement. But the Hokies will only improve on the line as long as there are no injuries. At this point, if anyone other than Lanier gets hurt, you're probably going to see Via in at their spot and -- poof -- Tech's offensive line depth becomes slightly above zero.
For best-case scenario against the Hokies against both Arkansas State and Marshall would be for the offensive line to stay healthy, play well enough to help the team build a big lead and then sit for most of the game while the second-stringers get valuable playing time. If that happens, it would go a long way toward building offensive line depth and getting ready for ACC play.