Like many high school football players, D’Andre Plantin felt that he could compete right away in college. Even though Plantin switched positions twice in high school, moving from offensive line to defensive line and back again, Plantin felt confident about his prospects of playing early at Virginia Tech.
Instead, Plantin redshirted his first season on campus and didn’t see significant playing time until last season vs. Virginia and Oklahoma State.
“It was definitely one of the things to adjust,” Plantin said. “Coming out of high school, you think you’re the best, you don’t think anybody can mess with your work. But it was really a humbling experience, letting me know as a player I have to get stronger, I have to know more, I’ve got to do more. It’s a lot of things, accountability-wise, that I have to put on myself in order to put me out on the field.”
Plantin didn’t start either of those games, but played real snaps in real-time situations. Those snaps, as well as his patience, have placed him in prime position to start for Virginia Tech for the first time in his career.
Plantin’s patience didn’t come easy. The former three-star prospect from Norcross, Ga. sat on the bench for three full seasons, playing very little. Instead, Plantin was forced to learn, and that knowledge is benefiting him now. Plantin has become a leader, earning praise from both head coach Justin Fuente and offensive line coach Vance Vice.
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“I’ve been thrilled with D’Andre,” Fuente said. “Through the offseason and the spring, he’s done a really good job. He’s got to continue to be consistent and continue to do that and handle the praise that comes with doing a good job. Now, they’re pats on the back instead of prods. But I feel good about where he’s at mentally and emotionally in his development.”
The biggest difference this spring has been Plantin’s leadership. He’s taken on a bigger role not just on the field, but in the meeting room, too.
“He’s had a tremendous amount of growth in the maturity part of it. He’s actually grown up,” Vice said of Plantin. “He’s got some leadership qualities and he’s always been a guy I can trust on knowing what to do and who to do it to. But now he’s helping some of those young guys around him and being a leader.”
“Naturally, I feel comfortable doing it,” Plantin said. “I know we have a lot of young guys that have good potential to make an impact on this team. The better I can bring them along — our weakest link is the weakest of the team, so as long as I bring them along, keep bringing them up, encouraging them, teaching them, I’m telling them every day like, ‘My spot easily could be taken. You’ve just got to work, got to grind. If I don’t come out here and work, it’s on me, but I need you to come out here and work, push me and I’ll keep pushing you.’”
This offseason is a critical time in Plantin’s career track. Entering his fourth season with the program, this is generally the time where offensive linemen begin to contribute. If they don’t it’s a decent sign that they might not develop enough to play at the college level. Fuente said as much at the beginning of the spring, noting that it was time for Plantin, and others, to start contributing.
“I’m anxious to see them play,” Fuente said to begin this spring. “We’ve got some guys that it’s kind of ‘put up or shut up time’ now. Guys that have been in the program now for a handful of years that need to grow up and be productive, and we’ll see if they can do that.”
Plantin’s experience at the end of last season gave him a taste of what it takes to play against Power 5 opponents. He came off the bench to relieve Parker Osterloh, and even though it wasn’t a ton of snaps, Plantin took them seriously.
“I just knew that the patience I had throughout the process, when I finally got out there and had the opportunity, I just knew that I had to attack it,” Plantin said. “Everything was precise, everything had to be correct mentally to me. I just knew that all that time, all those humbling experiences, those summer workouts where you don’t know if you’re going to play or not, that just really built me better. After the game, it helped my confidence knowing, ‘Ok, all of it wasn’t for nothing.’ We really worked and this is the process, I just had to run through it.”
Plantin played left tackle in those snaps, but is working at left guard now. Given his age and experience, which is more than just about anyone else the Hokies could move there, Plantin should be Virginia Tech’s starting left guard vs. Florida State to open next season.
“We knew that it was a young team, everybody was thinking we were going to be inexperienced, things of that nature, but when I think of young I think of hungry,” Plantin said. “Guys ready to come out there and make an impact immediately. That’s what you wanted to come to Virginia Tech for in the first place, so why not get the opportunity? I wasn’t worried about ‘put up or shut up,’ I was just worried about going out there, executing what I can and doing the best I can to help my team.”