Tech Tidbits: Let's Talk Linemen

Sizing up Vinny Mihota's move to DT, and the sudden confidence in the offensive line.

[Mark Umansky]

Football season started to feel real when camp first neared, but things are different, as of today.

Why? The pads just went on, and the tackling has started.

Yes, that's the stuff. The Florida State game may still be painfully far away, but it doesn't feel quite so bad when you see news like that.

Tech's coaches were kinda light on the news during today's media session (thankfully TKP has you covered with an exclusive with Justin Fuente, should you have missed that).

But there were still some goodies to wring out of what we got.

Mihota's Big Move

After missing spring ball, fall camp will offer us our first look at Vinny Mihota, newly minted DT.

Considering he's now listed at 6'5" and 297 pounds, he'll plainly look a bit different out there.

Rumors swirled for years about Mihota moving to DT someday, so it does feel a bit strange to write that it's finally happened. Now, we get to see just how it'll all turn out, and I think it's safe to say that's yet one more unknown in a sea of them for Bud Foster.

Sure, Mihota has a ton of experience on the line, and there is every reason to think the transition will go smoothly. Fuente and Foster have both repeatedly expressed full confidence in Mihota and Ricky Walker as the anchors of the defensive line — and perhaps the defense as a whole, given the sudden dearth of experience at every position.

But it's still got to be a little bit nerve-wracking that one of your guys is recovering from an injury, adding a bunch of new weight and adjusting to a new position (on a full-time basis, at least).

There's not much in the way of depth behind Mihota and Walker, either, which only complicates matters further. Fuente has had lots of good things to say about Jarrod Hewitt this offseason, and Xavier Burke seems locked into the fourth DT spot (though it's not as if he has a ton of on-field experience either).

Without Cam Goode, there's no obvious fifth DT. I don't think the position is as much a cause for concern as cornerback, but I don't know that fans should simply look at the depth chart, see two familiar names and assume that everything is locked in with no uncertainty.

As with everything on defense this year, take nothing for granted, and hope that Bud has it all figured out.

Rocky Steady on the OL?

On the other line, however, things seem positively peachy.

I expressed some skepticism in the spring that Silas Dzansi would stick at left tackle over a guy with experience at the position like Yosh Nijman, but it sure seems like that's exactly what's happening. And that, to me, is a very promising development!

As I've written here before, if the Hokies have caught lightning in a bottle with Dzansi, that is going to be huge for easing the transition to the next generation of offensive linemen. If the guy really is good enough to take over on the blind side as a redshirt freshman, that is excellent news for both this year and (perhaps more importantly) the next two years.

Suddenly, this OL group is the position I feel best about on the whole team — quite a departure from even two or three years ago — and clearly I'm not alone.

There are certainly questions left to answer on the line as well — as ever, Vance Vice says he'll "play musical chairs in a heartbeat" if he doesn't like what he sees, even with all the experience he has on the line.

But it seems there's considerably less for the coaches to sort out over the next few weeks than there is at just about every other position. A solid offensive line will certainly help the Hokies, say, find new playmakers on the outside or sort out the running back rotation.

Let's hope that all this preseason optimism is justified.

Red Zone Wilting

Because things were so light on news today — seriously, this section was almost about punt and kick returners, which are shaping up to be C.J. Carroll and Caleb Farley, respectively — thought I'd take a bit of detour.

ESPN's David Hale is of course a must-follow for any ACC fan, and he's been cranking out some noteworthy stats as the season draws closer.

This one, from a few days back, really stuck in my mind.

Any time you're joined by the likes of UVA and Illinois in some rating of offensive efficiency, that seems...bad.

But I think it also illustrates nicely a lot of the problems Tech had on offense last year, particularly later in the season when the offense really hit a wall.

If you look at Tech's offensive production in a vacuum, you'd get the impression that they were an above average team, generally. After all, the Hokies ranked 53rd in yards per game — far from top notch, but also well above where the program ranked back in the late Beamer years.

Yet looking at just how inefficient the team was in the red zone demonstrates why the big improvement in pure yards per game wasn't accompanied by a scoring boom, and it speaks to many of the problems the coaches have spoken about recently.

Fuente has spoken at length this offseason about receivers not winning one-on-one battles on the outside, or running backs not making the unblocked man miss. When the field shrinks, I fully expect that those shortcomings are magnified.

Certainly, the improved offensive line I alluded to above can help with that. But this is where the rubber will really meet the road in seeing whether the offense can take a step forward this year.

We conclude this week with a reminder that Kyle Chung has been a Hokie for justttt a little while.

Comments

It's exciting to have a lot of young, talented OL to look forward to, and to simply have a lot of depth on the line.

In the exact opposite vein, I really hope we are able to turn around our DT depth situation over the next few years in a major way.

So we are confident on the offensive line depth but not confident on the defensive line depth. And this is news coming out of Blacksburg?

Never Forget #1 Overall Seed UVA 54, #64 UMBC 74

DL depth at either DE or DT has been an issue every year since before 2010. Seems like either DE or DT is weak. That 2010 DL was by far the weakest link on what could have been a BCS contender.

Five star get after it 100 percent Juice Key-Playing. MAN

I just looked back at that roster. Holy cow it was stacked. I mean JR Collins, Exum and Gayle were r-Fr's! Tweedy, Hosley, rock Carmichael, just to name on few of D. The Offense had everyone! You are right, the DL is the only unit that lacked "names".

I mean, Telvion Clark was on that roster.

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

I feel a lot better about our DE depth for the first time in a long time . Still unproven but the depth of talented players is there .

I will say the news of Mihota having to rehab his ACL and adding 40lbs in 2-3 months is kind of concerning. Seems like a recipe for potential disaster if he goes down with an injury and no one behind him and walker on the Dline. That's just a lot extra weight to carry and drive explosively with when it's happened so quick and after an injury to your knee.

Fugazy

He gained 40 lbs "this offseason", adding 1-2 lb each week. Still a lot, but not all crammed into a 2-3 month period. Those two statements together tell me it was about 5-8 months instead.

Now, obviously he wasn't able to work on footwork with the extra weight until the last 2-3 months, which is concerning, but I'm sure Hilgart and the coaching staff have a plan in place to get him up to speed.

The weight gain and "working" with it does raise concerns, but this is not something, I presume, he's doing on his own. This is under the guidance of the staff, so we have to trust they (Hilgart, et al) know what they are doing. I'm sure this is not an experiment, but a known process.

...time will tell.

Yeah I'm sure there's a plan but I still think it's something that caught my attention. I'm sure it also comes from sheer need at the position. First if you look at the Hilgart thread most of the weight gain is a year timeline and no where near 40lbs for most players ie good weight. 2nd anyone that's had ACL injury and has any extra weight will be told that they need to lose weight to remove the stress on the knee. Also it's not solely 40lbs, the force needed to generate movement with his heavier body is now expentially more than what it was before. Bottom line is that is a lot of weight to gain so quickly particularly when a significant portion of time he was probably extra limited with anything on that knee. I'm not saying that the staff isn't preparing him and doesn't have a plan, but Jeremy Webb went out for the season after 5 mins. Also see Marshawn Williams and his knees/ACL. I'm just saying it's not something to disregard with a player comin off of an ACL let alone one with added weight, especially when we don't know what we have behind him.

Fugazy

Me and the 5 major knee surgeries I've had strongly endorse this message.

For what appears to be no other reason then "I've gotten a little fat", my 'good' knee (the one with only a single ACL repair and at least 6 years ago all of the cartilage) suddenly blew up like a fucking balloon this week.

Old sigline: I've been cutting back on the drinking.

New Sigline: lol it's football season.

I'm also concerned about if his shoulders can still hold his arms to his body.

Are you I'm implying he can't shoulder the load?

We put the K in Kwality

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

Chung and Pfaff were both class of 2013, couple that with Nijman's 4th year as a starter and the OL is looking experienced. If Dzansi is everything the coaches think he'll be then wow, this is a far cry from the VT OL's of old.

Tyrod did it Mikey, Tyrod did it!!

...this is a far cry from the VT OL's of old.

Actually, this reminds me more of the VT OL's of old, back in the day when we used to have road-graders on the OL, and put them in the NFL every so often.

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

+1

Although I meant post Coach Newsome.

Tyrod did it Mikey, Tyrod did it!!

I definitely would agree with you with that stipulation.

If you're not sure if my comment warrants a "/s", it probably does.

I never thought Vinny was quick enough or fast twitched to be a successful DE. I think DT better fits his style/frame. Hopefully he will be a big disruptive beast in the trenches and maybe bat down some QB passes.

Pour some Beer on it

So what is our most likely starting offensive line?

The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me.

somewhere in the neighborhood of 1450-1500 lbs of Hilgart-fed lean beef.

--
"It's time to go play Virginia Tech Football longer and harder than anybody else in America!!" -- Justin Fuente
"I put a brick in Sacksburg today." -- Cam Phillips

Next five up?

LT Christian Darrisaw
LG Lecitus Smith
C Zach Hoyt
RG Austin Cannon
RT Tyrell Smith

Maybe TJ Jackson?

John Harris could work into the Guard rotation?

Deepest Oline ever?

Hokie fan | W&M grad

LA said in the other thread that he heard that John Harris has been looking good as well. The ultimate goal..able to switch out 5 linemen interchangeably...Hope we can wear down some Dlines that way..

A lot easier said than done, offensive lines thrive on continuity, communication and knowing the guy next to you so well that you'll know what he's going to do before he does it, that's why you often don't see offensive lines switched out unless there is an injury or poor play. Now there is definitely a huge advantage to be able to plug someone else in if the starter isn't performing or gets hurt but don't expect to see rotation in and out mid-game for the sole purpose of keeping guys fresh.

VT '17

I recall an Orange Bowl against a Nebraska Team that should have been playing for the natty championship where wave after wave if fresh O Linemen wore down the Tech D Line that had not worn down like that all year long. I agree that communication is important but platooning lines can be very successful if you have enough depth to pull it off.

Lets GO!!!!

so, you know, go ahead and sign up for TKPC so you can actually read the article ;-P

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I appreciate Alex's ability to take such little information and write a thoughtful, entertaining piece with it to get me pumped up on this Friday morning about Hokie football. Bravo, sir.

TKP content just keeps coming this week - love it + thank you!

Hokie fan | W&M grad

Love Joey Slye but his injuries and range - around 37 yards consistently hurt red-zone production the past couple years. Obviously you get more points with a good FG kicker, but it also changes philosophy and play calling in the red zone. Love Jon McLaughlin, but he played some of his best ball as a Freshman and didn't really "explode" after that- granted he had a few different coaches. Point is, let's hope Dzansi develops into an absolute lock pro pick by his junior year and doesn't flatten out early like some others have.

I can make a case in my head that a consistent kicker from 45, maybe even 40, is all I want. Slye had this illusion of a long-leg that made coaches try him when they should have just gone for it. I'm a big proponent of going for it inside your own 50, only on 10+ would I punt. So if we are kicking 45 yard FG's with 50% probability on 3rd and 4, I would rather us go for it.

Nah he had a big leg. Getting it between the goalposts was always his downfall

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

Yup. He has a massive leg. If he was accurate he could easily hit 60 yarders.

It always seemed like Joey's super long kicks would just go straight ahead, which is ok if you are in the middle of field, but not on a hash mark. I'm sure he must of have been hitting them in practice, but anytime he would come out for a long kick from a hash, I would just shake my head.

Regarding our OL depth, how sick would it be if we could rotate the lines the entire game...

First series - 1's
Second series - 1's
Third series - 1's and 2's
Fourth series - 1's and 2's
Fifth series - 1's
etc.

Keeping the big dudes super fresh the entire game.