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Spring 2016 Hokies in the Trenches: The Offensive Line

The personnel isn't changing, but every single coach of the offensive line is changing, and that is going to mean nothing but wild guesses as to who plays what style of line. There is something about new wine in old wineskins as a warning, but how about old wine in new skins? Not sure how that works out; just as long as it does. The Offensive line for Spring 2016, lots of knowns and infinite unknowns.

Returning Players meet new coaches on the Hokie O-Line
Returning Players meet new coaches on the Hokie O-Line
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How do you figure out what’s going to happen on the most critical unit for any football team, the Offensive Line? Everything that was so mediocre or flat out bad evolved in a good direction in 2015. Almost the entire unit is returning to play at least one more season. The individual play improved greatly, and the team play really seemed to step up nicely as Michael Brewer took back the controls. No one is going to write home to Mom to brag about the first five games, that’s for sure. At some point, however, the Offensive line seemed to figure out how to make something work. By the end of the 2016 season, they were still having difficulty drive blocking for power runs; but they were zone blocking and trapping with enough skill to get Trevon McMillian some respectable creases. They were also keeping Michael Brewer on his feet longer, especially when the pocket moved and he slid around looking for throwing alleys. This helped Brewer reduce the turnover problem, that’s for sure.

The big thing for Spring 2016 and beyond is the most massive change any offensive line can have, three new coaches; especially that all important Line Coach. At some point the switch from Searels to Vice will exert itself, if it hasn’t already. It’s important to note that 100% of this offensive line was a product of the Loeffler era, and through their senior year the players have had two line coaches. That might actually work to Tech’s advantage. These players, though mostly coached by Stacy Searels have had to go through the churn of change. That probably means that Vance Vice (sounds like a name for the Tenor Sax player in Brian Setzer’s Orchestra) will have some room to work with everyone. It also means that until a few seasons pass, he’s going to have to work hard to earn some trust and exert his style of play on the line.

You see we might be getting new key offensive coaches and a new offensive system but the players available for 2016 are going to be much the same as they were in 2015. Spring will see an experienced, interdependent, and stable crew on the line of scrimmage. We only lose Wade Hansen and Darius Redman. Hansen had really stepped up as the season progressed, and his graduation from the program will cause a loss that will have to be filled by someone else picking up the slack.

Number

Name

Pos

HT

WT

77

Wade Hansen

OL

6' 5"

295

52

Darius Redman

OL

6' 5"

287

There are many familiar names in the list of players returning for 2016. There has to be the expectation that Coaches Vice and Cornelsen are going to set out some serious challenges for the existing guys to meet. Coach Fuente has promised that the offense will be adaptive and based on the skills of the players. Of course the players that he has are going to present a significant opportunity to adapt for these three offensive coaches.

The, as of this minute – speculative, projected roster of the Spring players is as follows:

Number

Name

Pos

HT

WT

YR

41

Jack Willenbrock

OL

6' 3"

247

r-Sr.

57

Wyatt Teller

OL

6' 5"

304

r-Jr.

58

Colt Pettit

OL

6' 4"

287

r-So.

61

Kyle Chung

OL

6' 4"

283

r-Jr.

62

D'Andre Plantin

OL

6' 5"

297

So.

63

Daniel Bailey

OL

6' 4"

285

So.

63

Andrew Moras

OL

6' 0"

259

r-So.

64

Eric Gallo

OL

6' 2"

297

Jr.

65

Matt Christ

OL

6' 4"

264

So.

66

Billy Ray Mitchell

OL

6' 4"

278

r-So.

67

Parker Osterloh

OL

6' 8"

323

r-Jr.

68

Connor Kish

OL

6' 2"

285

So.

69

Yosuah Nijman

OL

6' 8"

280

So.

70

Kevin Kish

OL

6' 2"

285

So.

71

Jonathan McLaughlin

OL

6' 5"

302

Sr.

72

Augie Conte

OL

6' 6"

295

r-Sr.

74

Braxton Pfaff

OL

6' 5"

295

r-So.

75

Alston Smith

OL

6' 2"

293

r-Sr.

76

Austin Clark

OL

6' 6"

308

So.

79

Tyrell Smith

OL

6' 3"

282

So.

There is a new offensive line signee who will be eligible to practice for Spring, Demitri Moore:

Number

Name

Pos

HT

WT

41

Demetri Moore

OL

6' 6"

285

He’s an Offensive Tackle from South Carolina, signed by  Vance Vice or our new coach’s first big get. He’s a junior college three star player with some excellent potential to add to the roster immediately.

The recruiting pipeline for regular commitments is also heating up, and is longer than I have seen in a while. The new staff is opening new territories, and we are also seeing movement from interest in playing for Memphis to interest in Virginia Tech as those targets come up.

The tall and big of the Offensive line situation is that beyond some roster stability, there is going to be serious change at all levels of this squad. While I expect to see some of last year’s talent on the field, I get the feeling that we are going to see more, and the Spring and Fall depth charts might look radically different. It is all up in the air. Three new coaches, a new playbook, and certainly new methods will dictate that. It’s up to the transitional holdovers to make the positions theirs. All guarantees look to be off, such as guarantees are in football.

Next up, the Running Back Round Robin – Is it a Dead Bird?

GO HOKIES!!!!