We've been over the offensive skill positions for the Hokies and the collection of talent across the board is probable the best we've ever seen in Blacksburg. But every real football fan knows the game is won and lost on the offensive line. Let's take a look at Tech's 2010 offensive line and see if it has what it takes to let the Hokies compete for league and national championships this coming season.
Starter: Blake DeChristopher, Jr. (returning starter at RT)
Possible Backups: Nick Becton, So.
Starter: Greg Nosal, Jr.
Possible Backups: Vinston Painter, So.
Starter: Beau Warren, Sr. (returning starter)
Possible Backups: Michael Via, So.; Andrew Miller, Fr.
Starter: Jaymes Brooks, Jr. (returning starter)
Possible Backups: David Wang, Fr.
Starter: Andrew Lanier, Jr.
Possible Backups: Darian Fisher, Fr.
Outlook: The key to the offense in 2010 will be the offensive line. The Hokies have a ton of talent at the skill positions, but if the offensive line doesn't perform well they will all be useless like Clemson's were in 2008. It would be like having a brand new Maybach with no engine.
The Hokies have struggled mightily at pass protection the last couple of years and it came to a head in 2009 when it gave up a sack every nine times the Tech quarterback dropped back to pass, the worst sack rate in the ACC. The next worse was UVa at 10.4. The Hokies were able to compensate for this by being very efficient in the passing game and by having a ground game good enough that they didn't have to rely on Tyrod Taylor to win many games.
I believe the offensive line will improve its pass blocking in 2010 by moving Blake DeChristopher to left tackle to replace the graduated Ed Wang. While it isn't set in stone that DeChristopher will make the move, I believe it should be done because he's the best tackle we have. Wang made a similar move when Duane Brown left.
And if you think the sacks are a problem simply because Wang replaced Brown at left tackle, you'd be wrong. The numbers weren't much better in Brown's senior year when Tech allowed a sack for every 7.3 drop-backs and every 8.7 in 2008, Wang's first year at left tackle.
While the pass blocking has been sub-par, the run blocking has been spectacular for the Hokies. However, the loss of Sergio Render, who I think was the best pulling guard we've ever had at Tech, will be tough to overcome. Greg Nosal is a slender, muscular lineman who played well while filling in for Render and started against Georgia Tech. However, he still has a ways to go before he's as good as Render.
The X factor in the group is guard Vinston Painter. He was a highly-recruited lineman who has been moved around since he's been at Tech. He was recruited as an offensive lineman, was moved to defensive tackle during his redshirt year in 2008 and moved back to the offensive line in Spring 2009. Now that he's finally been at the same position for a year I expect big things out of him. The question isn't whether or not he'll see the field, but how much time will he see.
- Will the offensive line improve its pass blocking in 2010?
- Should Blake DeChristopher move to left tackle?
- Is this the year Vinston Painter makes his move and starts?
- Will the line be our Achilles' Heel like Clemson's in 2008?