Parker Osterloh will admit he thought about hanging it up before the end of his final year of eligibility.
Osterloh, an offensive lineman for Virginia Tech, has dealt with more health problems than anyone ever should. The 6-foot-8, 325-pound lineman from Williamsburg, Va. has dealt with several injury issues, most recently an ankle injury in 2016 and a back injury in 2017. The back injury this season robbed him of most of his final year with the Hokies, and it was so debilitating that he considered quitting.
But he didn’t.
Instead, Osterloh decided to fight one last time to make it back.
“It just kind of crept up on him, and he missed a large portion, if not all, I don’t remember the exact dates, all of fall camp and the first whatever it was, four or five weeks of the season,” said head coach Justin Fuente. “He really could have just hung it up and said, ‘This is my last year, it’s just too much to come back from,’ and he did not.
“I really love the team and love the program, and it’s harder to sit out and watch them be practicing, than be in practice and be in pain,” Osterloh said. “I really want to do everything that I can to be with my team and finish the year how we want to.”
Osterloh worked with the sports medicine team at Virginia Tech, and got to the point where he was able to practice once again. And last Saturday, Osterloh made his first career start vs. Miami.
“It was a great feeling,” Osterloh said. “I’ve been here for five years, worked really hard, and to finally be able to step up when the team needed me, it felt good.”
Osterloh’s perseverance has impressed everyone inside the Tech football program. Everyone knows how hard it’s been for Osterloh, who had hopes of being a perennial starter when he arrived as a member of the Class of 2013.
“Since he’s been here, he’s always been a starter-kind of guy, just always been hurt,” Mihota said of Osterloh, who is his roommate. “I think he’s a great player, and he’s definitely developed and matured, and accepted what he has to do to get out there. I think he’s handled it really well.”
For Osterloh, his time as a starter is limited. He’s filling in for the injured Yosuah Nijman, who missed last week’s game vs. Miami with a lower body injury. Nijman was wearing a walking boot on Tuesday, so Osterloh could be in line to contribute once again.
“He continued to work, he wanted to be with his team, and he’s found an opportunity to help us contribute on the field,” Fuente said. “I’m awfully proud of him that it means that much to him. It’s kind of like what we were talking about, not being in the Coastal Division race, what do you have to play for? That’s just another great example of guys that genuinely enjoy this team, enjoy playing the game, know that they may have limited opportunities to continue to play this sport.”
Offense working to avoid yet another slow start
Virginia Tech’s offense has to kick things into gear this week vs. Georgia Tech. After a poor performance vs. Miami last week, the Hokies are hoping to overcome their struggles vs. the Yellow Jackets’ 28th-ranked defense.
VT’s offense will need to fix a few things. One, they’ll need to get on the board quickly and avoid another slow start. The Hokies have scored 48 points in first quarters this season, which comes to an average of 5.3 points per first quarter. Tech scored zero points in the first quarter against Miami, and only scored three points in the entire first half.
It sounds like the main issue at this point is execution. The film is now out on Virginia Tech, so it’s a lot harder to hit opposing defenses with things they have not seen already on film.
“I don’t know if there’s one single factor,” said Cam Phillips. “We’ve just got to execute a whole lot better. The coaches have tried to make it tough on us in emphasizing execution in practice, more than they had already done. Still, when you get out there, things are actually live, it’s much different than practice.”
“I just go back to this, whether it’s the first quarter, the fourth quarter or whatever — we know what we are and how it’s going to have to be for us to have success,” Fuente said. “It’s just going to be hard. Things are going to be difficult. We’re not as explosive of a football team as we were last year. Points will be harder to come by, whether it’s the first quarter or the second quarter. I think part of that is because things have to be pretty perfect for us to have success right now.”
Gaining separation will be key as well. Georgia Tech’s pass defense is barely inside the top-50, but the Yellow Jackets have two seniors starting at cornerback (Lance Austin and Step Durham), one senior starting at safety (Corey Griffin) and another senior starting at nickelback (Lawrence Austin).
After struggling vs. Miami’s defensive backs last week, Virginia Tech could face similar challenges once again.
“Well, we do quite a few things, in terms of trying to handle man coverage,” Fuente said. “We have some scheme things that we do. We got quite a bit of Cover 3 last week, which those things don’t work against that. So, we’ll continue to find a way to handle leverages and handle schemes to try and get our guys the ball, and get them the ball accurately and quickly.”
Tech’s offense will need to use every possession to their advantage. Georgia Tech’s option offense is notorious for chewing up clock and shortening the game, and the Yellow Jackets are doing it once again this season. Georgia Tech ranks third in the country in time of possession, sitting behind only Wisconsin and Navy, another option team.
“Defensively, they continue to mix up their looks and give people problems,” Fuente said. “They play fewer snaps defensively, in general terms, because of their offense. You turn on the Wake Forest film, on Wake Forest’s offense vs. Georgia Tech’s defense, and their first possession is like six minutes and 30-some-odd seconds left in the first quarter. Where did the whole first quarter go? Well, Georgia Tech had the ball, and it’s 3-0, but there’s six minutes left in the first quarter.”