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There has been a lot of discussion on the message board this week about the Virginia Tech offensive line. There have been some position changes, with Will Montgomery moving to center and Brandon Gore being elevated to starter at left guard. These changes seem to have made the offensive line better, and as it stands right now, this line is the biggest in Tech history.
However the biggest move on the offensive line is Duane Brown moving from tight end to right tackle. Brown, who is said to be up to 292, is currently in a battle for the starting position with Reggie Butler. If Brown wins the job, and many expect that he will, the average weight of the line will drop to 314.4, which would rank it as the second biggest line in Tech history. Butler is still technically the starter, so we won't plug Brown in there quite yet.
All five current starters are over 300 pounds, including Gore at 359 and Butler at 350. While pass blocking is certainly a question mark, this group has the makings of a very good run blocking unit. However, does size necessarily mean more rushing yards, but more sacks? Letís take a look at some past statistics to find out.
Note: In 2000 and 2001, the NCAA did not allow bowl game statistics to count in final statistics. Since 2002, bowl game statistics have been counted in the final statistics.
It seems as if the Virginia Tech offensive line keeps getting bigger and bigger. If you look at the chart, the two biggest offensive lines played in 2002 and 2004. Those units were also by far the worst pass blocking offensive lines that Virginia Tech has had in the past five seasons. Both gave up well over 2 sacks per game, and over 30 total sacks for the season.
But since theyíre big, theyíve got to be really good at run blocking, right? Not necessarily. The 2002 team rushed for a lot of yards per game, but their yards per carry average was just middle of the pack, despite having Kevin Jones, Lee Suggs, and a scrambling Bryan Randall behind them. That team ran the ball a lot because Bryan Randall was a true sophomore who was starting for the first time in his short career. Why put the ball in the hands of a green quarterback when the best two running backs in school history are in the backfield? And of course, giving up 37 sacks doesnít exactly help the yards per carry average.
The 2004 offensive line was the biggest in school history. They also gave up the most sacks per game of any line in the past five years, and the team rushed for the least amount of yards and had the worst yards per carry average. But Iíll give them the benefit of the doubt in the rushing statistics. Mike Imoh was suspended for the first three games of the season, and the Hokies had to play without a healthy or effective tailback. Cedric Humes did not get back to 100% until the latter part of the season. And they gave up 36 sacks, hurting the yards per carry yet again.
The best offensive lines are without a doubt the 2000 and 2003 groups. They didnít give up very many sacks, the yards per carry statistic was excellent, and they werenít huge lines. The 2003 group averaged 306.6 per man, third largest of the last five seasons. But the 2000 offensive line went only 289.6 per man, by far the lightest. The 2000 line was also the shortest group of the last five seasons, but they were experienced. They started four seniors and one junior. The 2003 team started two seniors and three juniors. These guys knew how to play.
The 2005 group is pretty experienced as well, which gives some hope that they can get the job done. Right now, the Hokies are set to start four seniors and one junior on the offensive line. If Brown wins the job at right tackle, those numbers would be three seniors, one junior and one sophomore -- still a lot of experience.
On the other hand, the 2000 and 2003 teams featured two big time tailbacks in Lee Suggs in 2000 and Kevin Jones in 2003. The 2005 Hokies do not have an All-American caliber tailback, although they do feature two seniors, Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh, who should be very good. Depth is not a problem either, with excellent backup r-freshmen George Bell and Branden Ore. So while the Hokies donít have an All-American, they have plenty of guys who can run the ball effectively.
One thing that is interesting is that the average height of the offensive line has gone up every single year, until 2005. The offensive line got taller every season, but dropped a little this year due to the loss of the 6-7 right tackle Jon Dunn and 6-6 right guard James Miller. This also clearly shows that height doesnít necessarily mean a good pass blocking offensive line, at least not for the Hokies.
The 2004 group was the tallest line in Tech history, going 6-5, 6-6, 6-3, 6-6 and 6-7 from left to right. This group struggled to pass block, especially against NC State when they gave up ten sacks. Their pass blocking ability got much better when the 6-6 Reggie Butler was benched in favor of 6-2 Jason Murphy at left guard.
As you can see, the 2005 offensive line is a pretty interesting group. They are viewed by everyone as the weak link of the Tech offense, and perhaps the weak link of the entire team. So how will they perform this year? History is on their side in some ways, such as the experience factor. However, the biggest lines have given up the most sacks in the past five years for the Hokies, and thatís not a good sign for the 2005 unit.
Time will tell how this
yearís offensive line stacks up to the lines of the past few years. If they
play better than expected, they could spark the Hokiesí run to another ACC
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|TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week|
VT Football Preview: The Linebackers
Practice Report: OL, QB, and Free Safety Observations
Preview/Prediction: Virginia, Coastal Division #3
Football Notes: Depth Chart Changes at WR and OL
VT Football Preview: The Defensive Line
The Year of Our Discontent, Part 5
TSL Audio: Interview With Will Stewart on WXGI AM950, Richmond (MP3 Audio)
Welcomes New E-Com Sponsor MaroonHelmet.com
Preview/Prediction: Maryland, Atlantic Division #3
Thoughts After Saturday's Scrimmage
Dominates First Fall Scrimmage
Preview/Prediction: Georgia Tech, Coastal Division #4
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