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   Welcome to TSLMail #189 - Friday, August 19, 2005    
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When it Comes to the OL, is Bigger Better?
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

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.

Offensive Line Size and Performance Chart

Year

Ave. Ht

Ave. Wt

Rush Yds

YPG

YPC

Total Sacks
Allowed

Sacks Allowed
Per Game

2000

6-3.6

289.6

2975

270.5

5.2

22

2.0

2001

6-3.8

295.2

2142

194.7

4.3

20

1.8

2002

6-4.6

309.4

2974

212.4

4.5

37

2.6

2003

6-5

306.6

2721

209.3

5.3

17

1.3

2004

6-5.4

317.2

2317

178.2

4.2

36

2.8

2005

6-4.2

326

?

?

 

?

?

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 Championship.


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   TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week


Duane Brown Moves to Right Tackle

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, 8/18/05, 9:30 pm
Ending recent speculation that a move was in the works, Virginia Tech offensive line coach Bryan Stinespring officially announced that tight end Duane Brown will be making a position change to right tackle. Brown will also change numbers, wearing #76 instead of his previous #89.
in News and Notes

2005 VT Football Preview: The Linebackers
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, 8/18/05, 4:00 pm
The Virginia Tech linebacking corps should combine with the defensive line to produce an outstanding front seven for the Hokies in 2005. VT returns three outstanding linebackers for 2005, and although there isnít a lot of experience behind them, there is some talent. Although very good right now, this group will only get better in future seasons.
in Football

Practice Report: OL, QB, and Free Safety Observations
by TechSideline.com, 8/17/05, 11:50 pm
One of our best insiders checked out practice Wednesday and kept a close eye on most of the proceedings. We had him check out the offensive line play for some possible changes there, plus give us some thoughts on the backup QB battle and Justin Hamilton's chances at overtaking DJ Parker at free safety. Here's info on all that and more.
in TSL Pass

ACC Preview/Prediction: Virginia, Coastal Division #3
by Jeff Ouellet, 8/17/05, 12:05 am
The Cavs have the second fewest returning starters and the second most lettermen lost (23) from an eight win team, but I think they will benefit from having an experienced, solid QB returning and an easier than normal non-conference schedule. Things line up reasonably well for the Cavs to start 5-0.
in Football

VT Football Notes: Depth Chart Changes at WR and OL
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, 8/17/05, 12:10 am
The Virginia Tech football coaches updated their depth chart on BeamerBall.com Monday, and interesting changes occurred at wide receiver and on the offensive line. Junior wide receiver David Clowney has been moved from flanker to split end, where he is now first on the depth chart. Clowney has been one of Techís biggest playmakers on the practice fields thus far, and the coaching staff has decided to move him in an effort to get him and flanker Eddie Royal on the field at the same time.
in News and Notes

2005 VT Football Preview: The Defensive Line
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, 8/16/05, 5:00 pm
The Virginia Tech defensive line is expected to be a team strength this year, and with the talent returning it certainly should be. However, there are some depth issues, as well as a possible position switch that could soften the effectiveness of the front four. The Hokies need some backups to step up within the next week, so defensive line coach Charley Wiles can set his two deep for the season.
in Football

The Year of Our Discontent, Part 5
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 8/16/05, 11:45 am
The month of June 1987 was an embarrassing one for Virginia Tech. First their athletic director, Dutch Baughman, quit on a day in which he and school president Bill Lavery held ridiculous, dueling "he-said, he-said" press conferences. Then Virginia governor Gerald Baliles blasted the school in a speech at Virginia Tech's own commencement ceremony. And to top it all off, the results of the investigation into the basketball program still hadn't been released.
in TSL Pass

TSL Audio: Interview With Will Stewart on WXGI AM950, Richmond (MP3 Audio)
by TechSideline.com, 8/16/05, 10:15 am
Will Stewart appears on Greg Burton's "The Drive" on AM 950 WXGI in Richmond, talking about the ESPN broadcast of Tech's practice on Monday, plus discussing depth chart moves and personnel that the Hokie coaches are trying to sort out before practice starts in earnest for the NC State game. (Time:11:37, Size: 2.7 MB)
in TSL Audio

TechSideline.com Welcomes New E-Com Sponsor MaroonHelmet.com
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 8/15/05, 10:10 pm
After nearly six years in business, TechLocker.com is shutting its doors, which you may have guessed by observing the ultra-low-price fire sale that's been going on, with the even lower inventory levels. We made the decision to close down TechLocker.com so we can concentrate on what we do best: provide great content for our readers and a great audience for sponsors and advertisers.
in News and Notes

ACC Preview/Prediction: Maryland, Atlantic Division #3
by Jeff Ouellet, 8/15/05, 11:00 am
On paper the Terps shouldnít be ranked this highly as they have only eleven returning starters from a team that was 5-6 last year. However, people tend to forget that the Terps won 31 games from 2001 to 2003, and this team is more physically gifted than any of those squads (although admittedly the ACC is a different league now than it was then). Iím willing to give Fridge a pass on last year, calling it an aberration.
in Football

Thoughts After Saturday's Scrimmage
by TechSideline.com, 8/15/05, 1:10 am
Saturday's scrimmage was a key one for the Hokie football team, as only two weeks remain before game week preparation for NC State begins. Obviously, the two-deep needs to be settled long before then, so the scrimmage was a chance for players to make themselves noticed at free safety, offensive line, defensive line, punter, and rover. How are those positions likely to sort themselves out? We received loads of email from our insiders, and here's how we sort out their thoughts.
in TSL Pass

DL Dominates First Fall Scrimmage
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, 8/13/05, 11:15 pm
The Virginia Tech football team held their first scrimmage of the fall in the blistering August heat of Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon. The scrimmaged featured impressive play from kicker Brandon Pace, lots of pressure from the defensive line, and some big plays in the passing game.
in Football

TechSideline.com Demographic Survey
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 8/12/05, 3:05 pm
TSL readers, subscribers and visitors, please help us out by taking just a couple minutes to fill out our demographic survey. The time you take to answer a few simple questions will help us pitch the web site to sponsors, which will enable us to keep improving the site.
in News and Notes

ACC Preview/Prediction: Georgia Tech, Coastal Division #4
by Jeff Ouellet, 8/12/05, 11:50 am
Georgia Tech is the ďhotĒ pick of some media folks this season, much like Clemson was last year. While they certainly have some top notch talent, this is a team with too many holes to contend for the top spot in the Coastal Division.
in Football

 
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