Virginia Tech’s offensive line meshed throughout the year and helped guide an offense that broke several school records.
Jerod Evans set the single season touchdown and passing yards record this season, while Isaiah Ford set the record for career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. None of that would be possible if it weren’t for a much-improved offensive line.
Yosuah Nijman is one of the key pieces of Virginia Tech’s big boys up front. The sophomore has started every game this season at left tackle, one of the hardest positions on the line to play.
“I’ve been really proud of (Nijman),” Fuente said. “He continues to get better. He’s very diligent, he cares, works incredibly hard, is very talented. He’s a big, strong, athletic young man that has helped this football team.”
Originally recruited on the other side of the ball, Virginia Tech shifted Nijman to the offensive line not long after arriving in Blacksburg. Nijman played in 12 games last season and has become a cornerstone of the line in his first full year as a starter.
“The coaches believed I could play that position,” Nijman said.
Nijman has benefited from playing around experienced guys. Wyatt Teller, Eric Gallo, Augie Conte and Jonathan McLaughlin all have multiple years of experience under their belt. McLaughlin took Nijman in early on and helped mold him into a starter.
“When he first got here, I took the big brother role to teach him what the older guys taught me when I was younger,” McLaughlin said.
“Ever since I came to Virginia Tech, he’s been helpful to me and been an older brother to me and taking me under his wing, on and off the field,” Nijman said.
Nijman’s progression has allowed Virginia Tech to shift McLaughlin over to the right tackle spot, a place Fuente believes suits him better. Prior to this season, McLaughlin played mostly at left tackle.
“I just think he fits better over there,” Fuente said. “I don’t know if there’s any one thing other than (Nijman) is a little more natural on the left side and Jon, I think, in my opinion is a better fit over there on the right.”
McLaughlin said that the coaching staff uses Nijman as a model for how the linemen should look physically. At 6-foot-7, 300-pounds, Nijman is about as cut-up as it gets for playing in the trenches.
“They say I look like Zeus,” Nijman said. “I do literally everything else everyone else does. I guess they’re just amazed.”
McKenzie out with undisclosed injury
Fuente told the media on Wednesday that running back Shai McKenzie is dealing with an injury, which has led to him not being available for the team. As usual, Fuente was short when asked about specifics regarding McKenzie.
“No, he’s not healthy,” Fuente said.
McKenzie, a redshirt sophomore, hasn’t played since Oct. 15 when Virginia Tech lost to Syracuse. McKenzie’s career at Virginia Tech has been quite bumpy. He arrived at Tech fresh off of a right ACL tear in his senior season. McKenzie started off the 2014 season with a bang, rushing for 269 yards and three touchdowns on just 53 carries.
McKenzie tore his right ACL for a second time vs. Georgia Tech that year and took a medical redshirt for the 2015 season as he rehabbed. McKenzie was thought to be full healthy entering this year, but doesn’t look to be dressed for the Belk Bowl on Dec. 29.