Young Virginia Tech Offensive Line Looking to Improve Run Blocking
Offensive line coach Vance Vice brought in one of the most talent-laden offensive line classes in Virginia Tech history with his 2019 class. Now, those freshmen are doing their best to make an early impact for the Hokies.
Two freshmen in particular, Doug Nester and Bryan Hudson, got some valuable experience this past Saturday against Old Dominion. Overall, Vice said he was pleased with the way they dealt with the moment.
“I thought they handled it well,” Vice said. “They’ve been working extremely hard, and they’ve done a great job picking up the scheme...they go in there and work hard every day.”
However, Vice was also quick to note that both Nester and Hudson are still true freshmen who have a lot to learn.
“Can we get better? Yeah we can,” said Vice. “Am I going to be grey-headed by the end of the month, yeah I am.”
Unfortunately for Vice, it is not only the freshmen who have shown holes on the offensive line. Despite the depth and talent in that room, Virginia Tech’s offensive line has struggled to run block effectively in the first two weeks of the season.
For the Hokies, this problem has not gone unnoticed. In fact, sophomore LG Lecitus Smith said that the offensive line takes the struggles in the run game somewhat personally.
“It’s definitely frustrating to us as an offensive line because honestly, we take it to heart,” said Smith. “It’s not just something we accept, it’s something we know we need to get better at.”
Against Old Dominion, the Hokies struggled to get anything going on the ground in the first half. Virginia Tech mustered just 47 yards on 19 carries through the first 30 minutes of play.
After halftime, though, things got a little better. The Hokies gained 84 yards on 20 carries in the second half. That 4.2 yards per carry number helped the team feel a little more confident about what they can do.
At this point, Vice says that taking those small steps forward are an important thing to focus on. He knows that the offensive line is improving a little each day.
“I do feel like we took a baby step forward,” said Vice at Tuesday’s press conference. “Now we’re not there yet, but we took a bigger step today, and I’m excited about what happens tomorrow.”
Outside of just the run blocking, the offensive line certainly has a couple of positives that they can focus on. For one, there are no seniors in the starting lineup, and most of the players pushing for playing time are freshman.
Vice says it is a relief for him to have so many options at different positions. If one player is hurt or simply not playing well, he does not have to hesitate to give someone else a look.
“It is a luxury,” says Vice of the young depth on his unit. “If something doesn’t look right, I don’t have to look at it for very long.”
Even more than that, Vice can use the healthy competition as a motivator for his players to continue improving their games.
“It’s a very competitive situation in our room,” Vice said. “What that does, everybody is tuned in during the meetings, everybody is tuned in during practice because they know that I’ve got a very good group that’s all hungry to play.”
One thing that becomes clear from talking to anyone who has been in or around the offensive line is that they have a culture of constant improvement. Smith takes that culture very seriously, and he is confident that the run blocking will come along.
“We like to get more yards and progress more as a running football team,” said Smith. “We’ve need to be more aggressive up front, get more movement, and get to those backers. That’s what needs to be done, and that’s what we need to do.”