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Virginia Tech Hokies Roster Review: Offensive Line

They always say start with the hardest article first, or is it do all of the easy questions first... and come back to the stumpers? Well, in any case, we start the deep dives with what is arguably the least known and thinnest of the squads, the Offensive Line. Read and take the poll. The season might very well hinge on how this roster rises to the occasion. GO HOKIES!!!

Spring Game with the White O-Line up
John Schneider - SB Nation

Doing the Prep Work

There are many priorities when covering a team, but one of the most difficult is breaking out annual rosters and drilling into the details of what sort of individual and squad performances the fans can expect in any one season. The important thing to remember in every college football roster, from season to season, is the reality of instability.

The old change agent formula was strictly eligibility and injury. Now, the, in and out, of the transfer portal has a major effect, and often the most critical one. The Hokies’ current Quarterback situation and depth at wide receiver are examples. We aren’t here, at this time, to talk about those things, Bryan’s going to be discussing both of those position groupings in another pair of articles. What we are here to discuss is the current Offensive Line roster, and how we see things shaking out as the season starts and unfolds.

The Basic Realities of the Importance of the O-Line

Before we dive into big details, let’s talk general concept issues. Offensive linemen are generally not thought of as superstars. There are a few great line groupings that have graced the Virginia Tech locker room over the Beamer Era, and even one in the Fuente period, but for the most part nobody really remembers specific players or eras. It’s the nature of the job and most linemen are relatively philosophical about the situation. The old aphorism “it is, what it is…” is impossible to ignore, here.

However, there are some really important generalities that need to be covered in regard to how offensive lines work, and how important they are to the success or failure of a program’s season. You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating because it’s so often forgotten. The offensive line is 85% of the run game and 65% of the passing game. If last season wasn’t testament to that hard and fast personal rule, nothing will burn through the superstar fog. A well-coached highly capable line can make an average quarterback look like a really good one. It can make a decent but unremarkable running back a superstar, and it can raise the level of play for the entire team.

The converse is also true. An offensive line that cannot run block but can pass block can be compensated for by implementing zone blocking and option schemes (though cut blocking is becoming so limited that the triple-option is being forced out of existence). An offensive line that can block for the run but can’t manage to protect the quarterback for long can be balanced off by moving the pocket, play action fakes, and burning clock to limit the other team’s scoring opportunities.

The problem is normally that few lines are good at one thing, and only average at the other. In general, they are compromises between the two blocking styles and therefore most programs have gone to some sort of dominant option scheme establishing zone (passive) blocking as the primary method of “controlling the line of scrimmage.” This condition isn’t necessarily a description of offensive line quality, but a balance since defensive line play has become more sophisticated and the athleticism of interior defensive linemen often overmatches the offensive line.

Suffice it to say, if your line can do neither type of blocking well, your offense is unlikely to be very good. No holes in the line equals no effective runs. Not enough time to get receivers downfield and open equals no downfield passing game and even the best quarterback receiver combo is going to get beaten to a pulp playing 3-second plays under the zone, constantly.

The 2023 Roster Angle on the Realities

We said this in the overview article, and it really bears repeating. This team is very young, and that applies to the offensive line in brighter bolder ink. There are no Seniors on the roster. Jesse Hanson was the only Senior, and his contributions were more leadership and experience than raw physical talent. His medical retirement has dropped a major leadership hole in the 2-deep (his anticipated depth was probably on the border between the 1s and 2s), but his loss on the field will definitely be felt because it is inevitable that the 2-deep roster for the offensive line gets a heavy workout. “Starting” doesn’t mean a ton in the line. Starters are often determined by the opponent’s defensive capabilities, and the emphasis the game planning coach wants to place on the offensive play calling. So, the reality is that a loss to injury in the 2-deep roster means reaching down into the lesser experienced players to plug a player into a position. That often ends up being one of those missing piece box puzzles where you have to shove tiles around using the missing tile to move them into place. Guards become Centers, Right Tackles become Left Tackles, Tight Ends get reassigned to do more blocking than pattern running… etc.

Right now, a perusal of the current roster is looking like Bowen and company are going to be reaching down into the true Freshman bag to keep a live 2-deep and a few extra players on hand to field a full O-Line for the season.

2023 Hokie Preseason Offensive Line Roster

Number Name Position Height Weight Class Anticipated Depth Playing Potential
Number Name Position Height Weight Class Anticipated Depth Playing Potential
68 Kaden Moore C 6' 3" 300 R-Jr. 1 Anticipated starting Center
70 Parker Clements RT/LT 6' 7" 305 R-Jr. 1 Injured last season looks to start at Right Tackle
75 Bob Schick RG/RT 6' 6" 305 R-Jr. 1 Spring Maroon squad Right Guard - probably starting somewhere
52 Tyler Smedley G 6' 2" 307 R-So. 3/4 (Practice) Unlikely to start.
58 Jack Hollifield C/G 6' 3" 300 R-So. 2 Will play- probably Right Guard and Backup Center
63 Griffin Duggan OL 6' 5" 307 R-So. 3/4 (Practice) Unlikely to start.
61 Braelin Moore LG 6' 3" 290 R-Fr. 1 (or the best 2) Might not start but in this context grades as a 1
65 Xavier Chaplin RT/LT 6' 6" 328 R-Fr. 2/3 (Played in 2022) Played 27 snaps against Liberty likely a backup this season but will get snaps again.
66 Hunter McLain G 6' 4" 293 R-Fr. 3/4 (Practice) Unlikely to start.
76 Johnny Dickson LG 6' 3" 295 R-Fr. 2 Played Left Guard in Spring Game for White.
77 Brody Meadows RT/LT 6' 6" 315 R-Fr. 1 Maroon squad Left Tackle in Spring. Likely to start there in Fall given the roster hit losing Hanson.
79 Johnny Garrett RG/RT 6' 5" 301 R-Fr. 2 Played Right Guard for White in Spring Game.
56 Layth Ghannam RT/LT 6' 5" 285 Fr. 2 (Redshirt possibly burned) Played Left Tackle for White in Spring Game. Has the potential to stick past 4 games.
59 Gabriel Arena RT/LT 6' 5" 271 Fr. 2 (Redshirt possibly burned) Played snaps in Spring for White - candidate for a flaming redshirt
60 Caleb Nitta G 6' 2" 281 Fr. 3/4 (Redshirt Probable) The current batch of true freshman will probably all redshirt.
64 Lance Williams G 6' 3" 285 Fr. 3/4 (Redshirt Probable) The current batch of true freshman will probably all redshirt.
67 Hannes Hammer RT/LT 6' 7" 272 Fr. 3/4 (Redshirt Probable) Potential game appearances for 4 games but still has development to do.
72 Jesse Hanson RT 6' 5" 300 R-Sr. * (was a 2) Medical retirement.
This Line is Thin and Young Lots of Challenges Data from Hokie Sports - Commentary Gobbler Country

The first thing that you will notice besides the obvious lack of Seniors of any level on this squad, there just aren’t that many players available to fill positions and depth blocks.

There are 17 total players listed in the line, and of that number 11 are either Redshirt Freshmen (6) or True Freshmen (5). Folks, a 2-deep is 10 total positions and not all of those players necessarily fit into positions when necessary.

From the list, and the evidence of several thousand pictures from the Spring Game, the following starting five are probably:


Parker Clements – Right Tackle

If he’s healthy and stays that way, he should be solid.

Bob Schick - Right Guard

Schick’s been playing pretty steadily and should have a handle on things.

Kaden Moore – Center

This was an interesting move by the coaches but looks to be permanent.

Braelin Moore – Left Guard

B. Moore played a ton of snaps next to K. Moore in the Spring. This is looking to be a thing.

Brody Meadows – Left Tackle

If he can hold up, Meadows played Maroon Left Tackle in the Spring.

The following are the best seen #2s with Hollifield competing for a #1:


Johnny Dickson – Either Tackle

Johnny Garrett – Right Guard

Jack Hollifield – Center (with possible games Right Guard if need be)

Gabriel Arena – Either Guard or Tackle

Layth Ghannam – Either Tackle

Xavier Chaplin – Either Tackle

The Skinny (Who am I kidding? There are no skinny people on the O-Line!)

As you can see from the comments in the chart and anticipated Depth chart spot, there just isn’t a whole lot of experience meat on the bones of this critter. Of the three true Freshman who might play in at least 4 games (rare for the line) only Hannes Hammer stands out as a potential). The 2’s which include some actual 3 level players are likely to see action, somewhere. Most of their positions are still fluid at that level, and with the exception of Jack Hollifield at Center, there is only sparse indication of where Coach Crook will be playing them when the ball is kicked against ODU on September 2nd.

A month of practice is a very long time but it’s also a very short period when a team is in this much flux at critical position groups. This particular group is frightfully young. It’s not deep in either experience or numbers. That’s a serious issue when it comes to practice because, inevitably there are injuries, and even one to the presumed starting group could throw the entire offensive line into major turmoil.

Preseason Grades are Unavoidable.

Before the Fall practice sessions start, the best grade that could be assigned to the unit as a whole is a “C” to “C+.” There are just not enough experienced players to push it higher, and none of them rise above three-stars in the talent grading. This line is extremely thin, and very junior players are going to have to step up in a big way.

Your Turn:


So, tell us how you are feeling about the Offensive Line before the season starts?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    The Moore Brothers and Parker Clements and Bob Schick better stay healthy because losing any one of them is going to be a near disaster.
    (48 votes)
  • 2%
    Living the dream… I’m living the dream… unfortunately it’s a nightmare and I am just hoping to wake up before I hit the ground.
    (5 votes)
  • 20%
    It’s all good. There are 12 or so players who have the chance to be great. Let’s give them the shot and confidence to do it.
    (35 votes)
  • 47%
    This all could be different come the 2nd of September. This might be the shakiest roster setup in several seasons, and there is room for movement on the depth chart. Reserving judgement until I see more.
    (80 votes)
168 votes total Vote Now

It’s not the end of the world, but a huge part of last season’s struggles were the struggles on the offensive line. We will be hopping over the LOS and taking a look at the other side of the trenches for the Hokies. The Defensive Line is looking healthy, and the two-deep is looking competitive. So, we’ll go inject some hope and optimism into things for the next review.