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Virginia Tech spring preview: Offensive line

This is a unit to be excited about.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Virginia Tech OL Christian Darrisaw in action against Pitt in 2018.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Roster: Offensive linemen

Tyrell Smith, Austin Cannon, T.J. Jackson, Zachariah Hoyt, Gene Kastelburg, Lecitus Smith, SIlas Dzansi, Brennon Garrison, Christian Darrisaw, Luke Tenuta, Joe Kane, John Harris, Walker Culver, Louis Mihota, Jesse Hanson

Virginia Tech spring OL roster
www.hokiesports.com

There are concerns in the trenches defensively for the Hokies. There’s plenty of youth, but with that comes inexperience. Offensively, things are looking for pretty good for Virginia Tech up front. Sure, the Hokies lost Yosuah Nijman, a four-year starter from last season’s roster and Kyle Chung, but there’s plenty of big bodies ready to assume bigger roles.

First, let’s look at the returnees. Christian Darrisaw played in 12 games last fall, starting every game. As a true freshman, that’s impressive, especially considering the time he spent at left tackle. It generally takes offensive linemen a year or two to adjust to the college level. Some have to add size and strength and acclimate to a different type of offense.

Darrisaw wasn’t phased. The 6’5”, 295-pound sophomore is not cleared yet this spring and we aren’t sure if he will be, however, he remains a key figure for the Hokies in 2019.

Another freshman from 2018, Silas Dzansi, played in 10 games last fall, making four starts. He appeared at both left and right tackle. Dzansi had a strong spring last year and most expected him to be the left tackle when the season opened. Much like Darrisaw, he has tremendous size (6’5”, 315) and athleticism. Can Dzansi separate himself this spring?

Zachariah Hoyt is a redshirt junior from Salem, Va. He played in 12 games last fall, making nine starts. Seven of those starts came at center. Hoyt progressed as a blocker, however, his snaps were a continuous issue. He must fix that or he could be ticketed for a reserve role or be in the mix at one of the guard spots.

T.J. Jackson is a massive human being (6’6”, 333). When he first arrived in Blacksburg in 2016, coaches weren’t sure what they had. Jackson was extremely raw. However, in over three years in the weight room, Jackson has progressed and offensive line coach Vance Vice has done a nice job in making Jackson a player who could be a key reserve in 2019.

Lecitus Smith is a player the coaches are excited about. He was recruited as a tight end, although most around the program knew his future was on the offensive line. Now 313 pounds, Smith has added a ton of weight since arriving on campus. He can still move like a tight end. Smith needs this spring to show coaches he can start at one of the guard spots this fall. He is an exciting player to watch this spring.

Tyrell Smith has seemingly been around forever. Now a redshirt senior, Smith is trying to lock down a starting spot for the first time in his career. Chung was a redshirt senior last fall and his experience provided a boost to the unit. Can Smith follow the same path? He has experience at guard and tackle. Guard is his best opportunity for 2019.

Walker Culver, Luke Tenuta and John Harris were each a member of the class of 2018. All three redshirted, but Harris did get some brief action thanks to the new rules on redshirts. Culver and Tenuta both have outstanding size and have a future at offensive tackle. Can they show enough to push Darrisaw and Dzansi? Like Darrisaw, Culver is limited this spring which is unfortunate because there was quite a bit of buzz around him.

Jesse Hanson is the only true freshman offensive lineman in spring practice. He already has great size (6’5”, 282), can he show coaches he is ready for playing time as first-year player?

There is a lot of optimism around this unit. Can five players separate themselves this spring? With some players recovering from injuries, it’s a perfect opportunity for veteran players — like Jackson or Smith — to make a push. Or, could it open the door for some first- and second-year players?