The Hokies 2014 Offensive Line Recruits: A New Hope?

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The annual whipping boys of the VT Football program, the incoming class hopes to change that trend.

As National Signing Day approaches this week, Gobbler Country has been profiling the Hokies potential 2014 recruiting class position-by-position. Today we focus on the offensive line. Ah yes, the infamous, mysterious, perennially under-performing offensive line of the Virginia Tech football program. Where do we even start? I’m already tired and defeated and I haven’t even finished the first paragraph. It's ok, we’ll get through this together.

The offensive line is the most important unit on the offensive side of the ball, outside of the quarterback position. BUT to have an effective quarterback you need to be able to protect the quarterback. And of course, to compliment the quarterback and not have the defense hone in on him you must have a viable running game. "Duh Ricky, we know that all too well." Well then, allow me to retort.....

THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A HOKIE FAN, THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART

In 2006, Curt Newsome took over as offensive line coach for the Hokies. He was let go at the end of the forgettable 2012 season as Coach Frank Beamer had no choice but to shake up the offensive coaching staff on the heels of an era's low-water mark in points and production. Under Newsome the Hokies had several successful rushing campaigns with record-setting backs Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson, though the attack could never be consistently relied upon. The same can be said for the protection in the passing game, which was highlighted during a 2011 season led by Logan Thomas. The sophomore play-caller was able to sync up with Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin often and along with Wilson the three led a charge to an at-large Sugar Bowl berth vs Michigan. Since that game, the Hokies have managed to post a pedestrian 15-11 record the past two seasons. I think even the most optimistic Hokie fans starting to come to a realization that many of our O-line woes were heavily masked by dynamic play makers such as Tyrod Taylor and the previously mentioned running backs. When those play makers disappeared from our roster, there was nowhere to hide.

You know our drill by now in these summaries, let’s take a moment and have a quick glance at our past recruiting efforts on the O-line and how it’s impacted the current roster.

2010

4 Stars:

Mark Shuman – 6’7" 285lbs, Fork Union (Fork Union, VA)

3 Stars:

Matt Arkema – 6’3" 284lbs, Midlothian (Midlothian, VA)

Caleb Farris – 6’4" 295lbs, Rockbridge County (Lexington, VA)

Laurence Gibson – 6’6" 296lbs, Buena (Sierra Vista, AZ)

The 2010 class has yielded two current starters in Laurence Gibson (So) (split time at RT with rising r-Sr. Brent Benedict) and starting center Caleb Farris (Sr).

Matt Arkema (r-Sr) has gotten some time in at guard and center in his career, playing sparingly last year.

The biggest disappointment undoubtedly goes to Mark Shuman, who was highly regarded four star tackle. He comes from a good football family, his father is head coach at Fork Union Military Academy and his brother Ryan had a pretty good career at Tech. Hokie fans were hoping for a lot more from the younger brother but that has just not come to fruition.

2011

3 Stars:

Jake Goins – 6’4" 290lbs, Manchester (Midlothian, VA)

2011 brought us just one offensive lineman in Jake Goins from outside of Richmond, VA. After red-shirting, Goins was unable to crack the two deep and subsequently left the Virginia Tech football program. I believe he may still be going to school in Blacksburg, but his playing days are certainly over. The definition of a bust, unfortunately.

2012

3 Stars:

Augie Conte – 6’6" 270lbs, Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot (Powhatan, VA)

2 Stars:

Jack Willenbrock – 6’4" 250lbs, Downingtown East (Exton, PA)

Adam Taraschke – 6’6" 265lbs, Riverbend (Fredericksburg, VA)

2012 was one of those underwhelming recruiting years that the Hokies sometimes settle for, and it's quite dangerous to adopt this attitude, because it's essentially burning scholarships that could otherwise be put to good use. The fact that the position most often affected by this is the OL is troubling.

Augie Conte (r-So) was listed as 2nd string guard behind recently departed Andrew Miller, will challenge for a starting position this fall. Despite getting only 31 snaps this season, Conte tested out as "Super Iron Hokie" which is always good to hear especially for our guys battling in the trenches.

Jack Willenbrock, a rising r-So might be better known for his high school teammate Drew Harris, who many felt was going to be the next great tailback for VT. Willenbrock logged a total of 29 plays this past season, all on special teams. I don't expect him to factor much in the two deep during his career at Tech, especially with the incoming haul expected to sign on Wednesday and new leadership at the helm in Coach Stacy Searels. And Drew Harris? He's had to go JUCO, so the time-tested tradition of pretending to be interested in someone else at a top prospects HS has failed miserably once again.

Recent reports stated Taraschke left the program in August due to "burnout" but recently rejoined the team, though not on scholarship. Chalk this class up as more or less a bust.

Editor's Note: I can only recall one instance where bringing a player in just to help recruit their more highly-regarded teammate worked out. Surprisingly, it was the Marcus Vick-Brendan Hill pairing. Hill turned out to be a solid 5th year WHIP who had a heckuva Stomp Bowl performance on NY Day in 2006 vs Louisville.

--Flyers13

LETS NOT SUGAR COAT IT, THOSE PAST THREE CLASSES REALLY UNDERWHELMED. IT NEEDS TO GET BETTER OR VT WILL BE  IN REAL TROUBLE. LUCKILY, 2013 WAS VASTLY IMPROVED

2013

3 Stars:

Braxton Pfaff - 6’6" 285lbs, Liberty Christian Academy (Lynchburg, VA)

Parker Osterloh – 6’8" 299lbs, Warhill (Williamsburg, VA)

Jonathan McLaughlin – 6’5" 313lbs, Mauldin (Mauldin, SC)

Kyle Chung – 6’4" 260lbs, Ponte Vedra (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL)

2013 yielded Tech's first true freshman starting tackle in Coach Frank Beamer's tenure. Jonathan McLaughlin spent a year at Fork Union and was initially an ECU commit until the Hokies offered. Sun Bowl game vs UCLA aside, McLaughlin managed to hold his own and performed very well considering being thrown to the wolves.

Parker Osterloh, a mountain of a man who red-shirted this past season and will look to crack the two deep moving into the spring.

Braxton Pfaff, who recently enrolled this month was actually a 2013 recruit who took a grey-shirt year to rehab his shoulder after having surgery. Pfaff, who's father also played in college looks to have that "nasty" demeanor that separates the good O-lineman from the average. Looking forward to seeing this young man in action.

Kyle Chung, a legacy "product" of former Virginia Tech All American Eugene Chung took a red-shirt in 2013 to bulk up in order to battle for a spot on the 2014 two deep. Playing tight end in high school, Kyle looks to follow in his father's footsteps and make his own name in Blacksburg.

I have high hopes for this class, overall success still to be determined.

Editor's Note: My six year old legacy "product" is currently enjoying a snack and the puppy bowl. We have some work to do on branding.

--Flyers13

A NEW HOPE?

If you ask our coaches, offensive line is probably the hardest position to evaluate. Therefore, it's going to be interesting to see how new offensive line coach Stacy Searels works, and develops these youngsters and acclimates them to Coach Scot Leoffler's offensive schemes, which Searels himself is doubtlessly absorbing at an accelerated rate.

2014

Bill Ray Mitchell – 6’4" 285lbs, Paramus Catholic (Paramus, NJ)

Offers: VT, 14 others including Wisconsin and GT

Rivals: 3*

24/7: 3*

Mitchell, who primarily played on the interior line during his high school career looks to be very aggressive and active. I can picture him pulling as he looks to be light on his feet for a big guy. I wouldn't be surprised to see him tried out at tackle at some point in his career, but we'll leave that up to Coach Searels. He will surely need to add some bulk and gain some seasoning before he is ready to challenge for a spot on the two deep.

Billy Ray Mitchell Senior Year Highlight Tape (via Billy Ray Mitchell)

Colt Pettit – 6’4" 260lbs, Patrick Henry (Hamler, OH)

Offers: VT, 15 others including Illinois and Purdue

Rivals: 3*

24/7: 3*

Much like Mitchell, Colt Pettit has a lot of the same characteristics. Playing on the interior, he looks to have the "nasty" edge to him as if someone talked trash about his momma. I don't mean to sound repetitive, but he looks great moving around, pulling and mauling people down field. He also looked good playing on defense as well, very aggressive and not afraid of the big collision. First team All-Ohio (thanks for leaving us one, Urban) Colt will have to add some weight before he's thrust into action but his future looks bright in orange and maroon.

Colt Pettit Junior Highlights (via Cody Pettit)

Tyrell Smith – 6’5" 265lbs, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ)

Offers: VT, FAU, UMass

Rivals: 3*

24/7: 3*

Out of the highly-regarded program at Don Bosco Prep, we have snagged offensive tackle Tyrell Smith, who despite his lack of offers appears to have a lot of great potential on the outside. He has the preferred measurables for a prototypical OT and has great speed off the edge to keep speed rushers at bay. A year of seasoning with Coach Mike Gentry and the tutelage from Coach Searels should get Tyrell ready to compete by 2015.

Tyrell Smith DBP 2012 Junior Highlights (via Dave Rubel)

Eric Gallo – 6’3" 280lbs, Council Rock South (Southampton, PA)

Offers: VT, Buffalo, UMass, Temple, Villanova

Rivals: 3*

24/7: 3*

Eric Gallo, another interior lineman from Pennsylvania, has a different skill set compared to his classmates in Mitchell and Pettit. Gallo is more of a straight ahead "road grader" as he has a bigger frame and looks to have a more college-ready body at this point. Whether Eric can adjust to the speed of major division one football will ultimately determine how successful he becomes. I expect Gallo to red-shirt as well.

Eric Gallo 2012 Junior Highlight Film Council Rock South (via Eric Gallo)

LOOKS LIKE FORMER COACH JEFF GRIMES KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING

Before his departure to LSU in mid-January, Coach Grimes left us with some pretty decent material to work with. We all know our offensive line deficiencies won't be corrected overnight, but we are taking a step in the right direction and recruiting actual high school lineman. While it's too bad that VT lost talented OT Brady Taylor (Columbus, OH) to AN Ohio State University, VT fans should take some relief in the fact that we are recruiting the right types of players. I'm cautiously optimistic about this class and 2013's haul. I think Coach Searels has a lot of good young prospects to work with and getting Tech back to the days where we used to RUN AT WILL. As Coach Frank Beamer loves to say, let's hope these guys "Really Get After It!"

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