So here I am, as usual, getting to rant about offensive linemen. Well, they always say write what you know, so, here I am.
This past year, the Hokies had to do some shuffling in and now out of season. During the season Yosuah Nijman got hurt and that forced Parker Osterloh, a redshirt senior that was a career backup, into the starting left tackle position. That was not an upgrade. Kyle Chung was the starting right tackle after spending most of his years on the interior, and that’s not an instant switch.
Side note: NOT ALL OFFENSIVE LINE POSITIONS ARE MADE THE SAME. They all have different responsibilities in blocking schemes, different body types, and different athleticism levels. It is somewhat easier to swap sides of the line from left to right or vice versa, but between guard and center or center and tackle? No, that doesn’t work easily unless you have someone that is exceptionally talented or they have a quite impressive coach or work ethic. And that isn’t even a guarantee.
Either way, the Hokies now have to say goodbye to longtime starters in Eric Gallo and Wyatt Teller, which takes apart the interior of the line. Parker Osterloh also no longer plays in Blacksburg. So, who is left to man the first string offensive line? Well, it’ll be the senior years for both Nijman and Braxton Pfaff, the latter of whom started every game last year for his first year starting and he did well enough that you wouldn’t think that he’d lose his spot. Nijman comes back from injury, and is easily one of the top 5 offensive linemen on the team, that’s not in question. Chung is going to probably resume playing center in his sixth year of eligibility. That gives a stable core at center, right guard, and either left OR right tackle. I say OR because there are two new starters, and one of them might just supplant Nijman at his former left tackle position.
Hokies 2018 Offensive Line Roster
|61||Kyle Chung||C||6' 3"||311||R-Sr.||1||Goes back to his roots|
|74||Braxton Pfaff||RG||6' 5"||314||R-Sr.||1||Earned this one last season with steady play|
|69||Yosuah Nijman||RT||6' 7"||322||Sr.||1||Might be swapping with Plantin|
|62||D'Andre Plantin||LG||6' 5"||314||R-Jr.||1||Surprise standout performer in the off season|
|60||Silas Dzansi||LT||6' 5"||314||R-Fr.||1||Another surprise from training and conditioning|
|79||Tyrell Smith||RT||6' 3"||300||R-Jr.||2||Will play often|
|71||T.J. Jackson||LT||6' 6"||333||R-So.||2||Also will play often|
|75||Zachariah Hoyt||C||6' 5"||304||R-So.||2||Backup Centers always hang with the ones|
|53||Aiden Brown||RG/LG||6' 2"||291||R-Fr.||2||Could be swapping between positions|
|54||Lecitus Smith||LG/RG||6' 3"||312||R-Fr.||2||Smith and Brown might be trading given the conditions|
|52||Austin Cannon||G||6' 2"||322||R-So.||3||Same as Darrisaw - could see time|
|77||Christian Darrisaw||LT||6' 5"||295||Fr.||3||Shows some promise from spring performance|
|63||Daniel Bailey||OL||6' 3"||301||R-Jr.|
|65||Matt Christ||OL||6' 3"||277||R-Jr.|
|68||Connor Kish||OL||6' 2"||302||R-Jr.|
|70||Kevin Kish||OL||6' 2"||290||R-Jr.|
|56||Clay Dean||OL||6' 3"||277||R-So.|
|50||Patrick Kearns||OL||6' 5"||297||R-So.||New Addition|
|51||Gene Kastelburg||OL||6'||301||R-Fr.||New Addition|
|72||Brennon Garrison||OL||6' 1"||296||R-Fr.|
|55||Luke Tenuta||OL||6' 7"||278||Fr.|
|56||Joe Kane||OL||6' 2"||277||Fr.|
|57||John Harris||OL||6' 3"||287||Fr.||Shows Playing Promise|
|58||Walker Culver||OL||6' 6"||270||Fr.||Shows Playing Promise|
|66||Louis Mihota||OL||6' 2"||278||Fr.|
Silas Dzansi was a bit of a recruiting lark, if you will. A lightly recruited kid that came to Tech from CD Hylton high in Woodbridge via Fork Union Military Academy, Dzansi was only offered scholarships by both Delaware State and Delaware. Part of that was that he was mostly rated as a defensive end by the recruiting services, and then after he went to prep school, he was rated out as a four star offensive tackle. Dzansi was a bit of a surprise coming out of spring as the starting left tackle, but if Vice thinks that a redshirt freshman can man that spot, that’d be an interesting development. It likely indicates that he thinks that the dropoff between Nijman at left tackle and Dzansi is less than playing the person that would be first string RT and Nijman at left tackle. Either way, it’s getting the future started early on what is a decently experienced line.
In at left guard is D’Andre Plantin, who eventually earned snaps at left tackle after the coaching staff was obviously not impressed with Parker Osterloh. Plantin did solidly, and now the former three star from Norcross, GA is pretty much the unchallenged competition winner. Plantin also has a chance to be a starter for two years, growing alongside Dzansi.
The two deep is going to be very important this year, if only because next year three starters will be off to the NFL or other pastures. After the starters the depth chart gets, unsurprisingly considering the rest of the team, pretty young.
At Center, the next in line is Zachariah Hoyt, who is currently a redshirt sophomore. A local greyshirt AND redshirt, Hoyt played for Salem High in Salem with current running back/slot Coleman Fox. He’d be theoretically joined by some combination of redshirt junior Tyrell Smith at one tackle spot, redshirt freshman TJ Jackson at another (more than likely right tackle based on what we’ve seen), and then at the other guard spots? You’re talking about more freshmen. At present, I’d bet that Lecitus Smith, a converted blocking tight end from Georgia, and Aiden Brown, a former center from Potomac, Maryland would be manning those spots. That’s just more and more youth on the depth chart as those from Vice/Fuente’s recruiting classes come in. Other potential factors include Christian Darrisaw, who, like Dzansi, was a lightly recruited offensive lineman before taking part in postgraduate school at Fork Union Military Academy. Darrisaw showed enough to the staff that he was in the mix in the depth chart in the spring. Austin Cannon, another FUMA postgrad player, could also add into the mix at guard. Either way, we are now getting into the new talent being added by Coach Fuente as more and more of the old guard has graduated and will be moving on shortly.
Just speaking of the Offensive line in general, there’s a lot of young talent that is coming onboard. Freshmen that could potentially be starters eventually include Walker Culver and John Harris, and if incoming pledges stick, the Hokies would add highly regarded players in Jesse Hansen and Bryan Hudson, not to mention late riser William Pritchard.
Hopefully the offensive line will gel a bit easier this year, because while they were actually ranked alright in number of sacks given up (they only allowed 23, which wasn’t terrible), with only 1.77 yards lost per sack. Even in tackles for loss allowed, the offensive line ranked respectably, with only 5.23 yards per lost on a tackle for loss. I’d try to draw more conclusions from those numbers, but the way that the NCAA counts those stats is…somewhat hard to discern. On its face, it would lead one to believe that the team was better at pass blocking than overall run blocking- if the sack yardage was so short and tackles for loss was that high, assuming the sacks count as tackles for loss, then so much more of the yards lost was on blown running plays.
Overall, the offensive line is in somewhat of a flux, as while there are two important members of the team leaving- and best wishes to Wyatt in Buffalo and Eric wherever he might end up (no reports of him after his Eagles Camp tryout and he is not currently on their roster). We’ll soon be relying on sophomores and juniors to hold the line together, and the staging isn’t ideal- three starters are going to be gone next year, so expect Fuente to try and get some people experience in the less heavy part of the schedule early in the year. Ultimately, while the first string is pretty set, the second is going to be in heavy flux. I’m going to try to outline what I think will happen, and we’ll see how correct that is.
First team, left to right: Silas Dzansi (R-Fr.), D’Andre Plantin (R-Jr.), Kyle Chung (R-Sr.), Braxton Pfaff (R-Sr.), Yosuah Nijman (Sr.)
Second team, sort of from left to right: Christian Darrisaw (Fr.)/Tyrell Smith (R-Jr.), Zachariah Hoyt (R-So), Aiden Brown (R-Fr.), TJ Jackson (R-So.)