2005 VT Football Preview: The Offensive Line

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The biggest question mark for the Virginia Tech offense
this year is the play of the offensive line. Some would say it’s the only
question mark. The Hokies lost Jon Dunn and Jimmy Miller off the 2004 team, and
there have been some position switches heading into 2005. The Hokies also have a
depth problem that could rear its ugly head if there are injuries among the
starters.

The offensive line is getting a lot of attention because
the Hokies open against NC State, a team that sacked Bryan Randall ten times
last season. The Tech front five isn’t going to have time to gel…they are
going to have to play well right away if the Hokies want to beat NC State.

Tackles

LT Jimmy Martin, Sr., 6-5, 311

Martin is Tech’s best and most experienced offensive
tackle. He has been a starter since halfway through his true freshman season
when he replaced the struggling Jon Dunn at right tackle. Martin is probably
Tech’s most important offensive lineman this season, even more important than
Will Montgomery, for the simple fact that he is protecting Marcus Vick’s
blindside and he has no proven backup. Tech can win without him, as last year’s
victory at Miami proved, but it will be very difficult.

LT Brandon Frye, r-Jr., 6-4, 302

Brandon Frye is one of the most impressive weight room
warriors that the Hokies have ever had. A Super Iron Hokie, Frye has earned The
Excalibur Award for his work in the weight room for two consecutive years. If he
can finally transfer his excellent athletic ability to the football field, VT
will be in pretty good shape at left tackle. It would also make Tech fans feel
better about the offensive line in 2006. In the past, Frye has struggled with
footwork and just being consistent overall.

RT Reggie Butler, Sr., 6-6, 350

Blessed with exceptional size, Butler is a solid drive
blocker who struggles in pass protection. Butler does not have the pass blocking
ability or quickness to play offensive tackle consistently, but the Hokies do
not have anyone else capable of starting there right now. Butler began 2004 as a
starter at guard but was eventually benched in favor of Jason Murphy. He spent
the rest of the season as a utility man, playing guard and left tackle. Expect
NC State to use Manny Lawson and Mario Williams to create a mismatch with
Butler.

RT Nick Marshman, r-Fr., 6-5, 346

When you see Marshman in person, the first thing you will
notice is that he fits the “aircraft carrier” description that accompanies
just about any great offensive tackle. Marshman is a young player who looks to
have a bright future on the offensive line. He posted good numbers in the weight
room, and has shown in practices that he has the potential to be a good tackle
for the Hokies. He is likely still a year away from being a major contributor.

Guards

LG Will Montgomery, r-Sr., 6-3, 307

Montgomery is Virginia Tech’s best offensive lineman. In
fact, he is their best guard and center. Right now Montgomery is slated for left
guard, but that could change if Brandon Gore shows the ability to start at the
position this year. In that case, Montgomery would be moved back to center.
Expect him to have a stellar senior season no matter what position he plays.

LG Brandon Gore, r-Jr, 6-5, 359

Virginia Tech’s biggest lineman, Gore was a highly
touted recruit who has yet to see much playing time for the Hokies. Gore has had
problems with his weight and has trouble staying in playing shape. However, he
was the most improved offensive player during the spring, and reported in August
in the best shape of his career. He could push for playing time this fall, and
could potentially start.

RG Jason Murphy, r-Sr., 6-2, 303

Murphy is a converted defensive tackle who played a major
role for the offensive line last season. When Murphy replaced Reggie Butler at
left guard in midseason, the offensive line started to play better. Murphy is a
lot smaller than Butler but has much quicker feet. He should be a solid member
of the offensive line during his senior season.

RG Sergio Render, Fr., 6-3, 313



Render is an interesting story. Originally committed to
Florida State, he decommitted and signed with the Hokies when promised the
chance to play defensive tackle. That chance lasted for only a few days, as
Render was recently moved to offensive guard. Guard is a much better position
for Render than defensive tackle. He has the chance to play early as at true
freshman, and it’s possible that the Hokies have found themselves a gem for
the future.

RG Tripp Carroll, r-So., 6-3, 314

Tripp Carroll needs to turn it on right now. If he is
beaten out by a true freshman when beginning his third year in the program, then
in all likelihood he will never work his way into the lineup. Carroll, who
boasted over 80 scholarship articles coming out of high school, has had an
injury plagued career. He will serve as snapper on extra point and field goal
attempts.

Center

Danny McGrath, r-Jr., 6-2, 287

McGrath is a relative unknown at the center position but
apparently has shown enough progress for Bryan Stinespring to leave Will
Montgomery at guard for the time being. The smallest starter on the offensive
line, McGrath hasn’t seen enough playing time to get much of a handle on his
capabilities. However, consider this…when was the last time Virginia Tech didn’t
have a good, or great, center? It’s been awhile.

Ryan Shuman, r-Fr., 6-3, 301

Shuman is Virginia Tech’s future at the center position.
Not highly recruited out of high school, Shuman impressed in practice while
redshirting last season, and he has added 25 pounds since his arrival at Tech.
Shuman will be a good player for Tech and could possibly see some playing time
this year.

Overall Rating

I’m going to give the offensive line a C+, with
the ability to develop into the B-/B range as the season progresses. I do
like Jimmy Martin and Will Montgomery a lot on the left side of the line. The
Hokies will probably run behind them often. I think McGrath will be fine at
center, but he still must be considered an unknown at this point. The fact that
four seniors and one junior are starting makes this a very experienced line.

However, I’m awfully concerned about right tackle and
depth. Reggie Butler didn’t show an ability to pass block well against
defensive tackles last year. I’m not sure how he is going to handle the ACC’s
talented defensive ends. Also, losing Will Montgomery or Jimmy Martin to
injuries would be devastating.

If Reggie Butler improves and some depth is developed,
this offensive line a very good group. Until that happens, I see it as being
only above average overall, but very good on the left side.

Previews/Grades
Thus Far
Quarterbacks

(8/2/05)
B
Running Backs

(8/4/05)
B+
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends (8/9/05) A-
Offensive Line (8/11/05) C+

 

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