Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
After months of uncertainty, Virginia Tech coaches finally named a youth-laden line to start against Alabama.
MICHAEL SHROYER | Special to The Roanoke Times
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes (left) instructs reserve lineman Matt Arkema (64) and Augie Conte.
Andrew Miller was injured last year.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
BLACKSBURG - With a quick pose, a single photo and a short tweet, Virginia Tech offensive line coach Jeff Grimes announced his starting five Saturday, ending months of shuffling, mixing and matching up front.
The Hokies' starting lineup will be, from right to left, junior Laurence Gibson, senior Andrew Miller, junior David Wang, junior Caleb Farris and true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin, a quintet with only 36 games of starting experience and two first-time starters at tackle.
"They've just performed the best over time," Grimes said after Saturday's closed scrimmage. "We had a fairly good idea that all those guys would be in the mix, even going into the spring, but there were some other guys that made some large improvements over the summer and during camp that put them in competition as well."
Brent Benedict, a junior guard, might be another player who could "figure in and help us in a significant role this year," Grimes said.
Beset by injuries, youth and inexperience, the Hokies played musical chairs with their offensive linemen starting in the spring, trying to find the right mix of players to replace starting tackles Vinston Painter and Nick Becton and utility lineman Michael Via.
"I think it did keep us working hard, and it worked," Farris said of the shuffling.
Starting experience is limited. Miller, from Bassett, has 21 start s under his belt, followed by Wang at 10 and Farris, a Rockbridge County High product from Lexington, with five.
Gibson and McLaughlin will be making their first career starts. McLaughlin, in fact, is the first true freshman to begin the season as a starting tackle in Frank Beamer's time at Virginia Tech.
Guard Sergio Render is the last Hokies offensive lineman to start as a true freshman back in 2006. Jimmy Martin started the final eight games at right tackle in 2002.
McLaughlin, who prepped at Fork Union last year and switched his commitment from East Carolina to Virginia Tech, enrolled in January, giving him at least a head start in terms of going through spring drills and offseason workouts.
"Any time you're playing a young guy you don't know for sure how he'll respond, but that applies to anybody who hasn't really played before," Grimes said. "You know, a guy like Laurence who hasn't really had any game experience. You don't know how he's going to respond, either, in a pressure packed environment, against a great opponent, with a crowd that's decidedly Alabama, I'm sure.
"It'll be a challenging environment for all those guys, but at the same time I've got a lot of confidence in Jon's mentality. I think he's a competitor and I think he'll rise to the occasion."
The interior of the line has three players who have worked at center. Wang enters his first year playing there, although he's taken snaps in practice before.
Miller, who missed the final six games last year after breaking his fibula and tearing ligaments in his left ankle, will move over to right guard, where he made an impression early in camp. Farris, who filled in at center when Miller got hurt last season, slides over to left guard.
"Having three guys that played center in the past as the three inside guys on the line really helps us out because we can all make calls together," Farris said. "Dave being the starting center, he makes the call initially. If he messes up, me and Miller are there to help him out."
The backups, for now, are thin. Junior Mark Shuman, who worked at both tackle spots and left guard, is out four to six weeks following knee surgery. Other than Benedict and Matt Arkema, reserve linemen Augie Conte, Parker Osterloh and Wyatt Teller are all freshmen.
"With so much youth right there, we're going to put our twos in some challenging situations this week and try to amp the pressure up on them a little bit and see how they respond," Grimes said.
"There are some young guys that are getting better and improving and that'll be a work in progress. I suspect it could be somewhat fluid even as the season progresses."
4 walk-ons awarded scholarships
Virginia Tech awarded scholarships to four former walk-ons: receivers Charley Meyer and Willie Byrn and linebackers Josh Trimble and Derek DiNardo.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday