When trying to pinpoint the most talented player on an offense in college football, it usually begins and ends with the quarterback position. While Hendon Hooker is efficient and excels in Virginia Tech’s offense, others might look toward Khalil Herbert as the player on offense with the most talent. The 5-foot-9, 212-pound tailback utilizes a combination of strength, quickness and vision that could make him Justin Fuente’s first 1,000-yard rusher at Virginia Tech.
However, an even deeper examination exhibits that while Herbert is extremely skilled, there’s another player who would take the title as most talented player on the offense. That honor would be given to left tackle Christian Darrisaw.
Now with 32 starts under his belt as the starting left tackle for Virginia Tech, Darrisaw has taken his game to another level in his junior season. In fact, he’s performing on a level that only one other tackle has reached in the past six seasons. Just take a look at the graphic below.
Highest-graded Power 5 OTs since 2014:
1 Christian Darrisaw, VA Tech (2020) – 95.8
1 Penei Sewell, Oregon (19) – 95.8
3 Jack Conklin, MSU (15) – 94.6
4 Cody Whitehair, KSU (15) – 94.3 pic.twitter.com/NLIHcCPLbs
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 13, 2020
“Christian is a really good player. He is a really good player,” left guard Lecitus Smith said. “He gets some praise for his playing, but I still feel like he’s a little underrated, and that’s my personal opinion.”
Still not convinced by Darrisaw’s impressive work this season? Here’s another graphic demonstrating how he stands above and beyond his peers in all levels as an offensive lineman.
Only OTs with a 90+ grade in run AND pass-blocking:
💪 Brady Christensen, BYU
💪 Christian Darrisaw, VA Tech pic.twitter.com/6pHbXLweb4
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 12, 2020
It’s this production from Darrisaw that has seen his name hit a meteoric rise on 2020 NFL Draft boards. On Saturday, the 6-foot-5, 314-pounder was matched up against Miami’s Quincy Roche, a player who has 28.5 sacks in his four-year career and will also hear his name called in April. By the end of the game, Darrisaw all but eliminated any threat from Roche.
Darrisaw’s dominance doesn’t just impact his own matchup, either. It also makes it easier on his right-hand man, left guard Lecitus Smith.
“I don’t have to worry too much about anything that’s going on to the left of me,” Smith said. “If we’re running a play where he has his man and I have mine, I don’t have to worry about his man coming inside or beating him inside too often or really at all. It does make my job easier on the field because I pretty much have to worry about what I have to do and my assignment because I don’t have to worry too much about him getting beat or trying to help him or anything like that. I know he has his job on lock.”
It’s the punishing physicality by Darrisaw in the run game and balance and coordination in pass protection that have scouts drooling about his potential. Darrisaw could become the first Virginia Tech offensive lineman drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since Duane Brown in 2008.
“I try not to pay attention to [the draft buzz] too much,” Darrisaw said. “Sometimes I might get like @’ed on Twitter and it might be in my mentions. I’ll see it and happen to scroll through it, but I try not to pay attention to it too much. I know I just try to focus on the game ahead and going 1-0 every week. Just focus on that at the end of the season.”
Darrisaw will be facing another difficult matchup this week versus Pittsburgh’s nasty defensive line, and specifically against defensive end Patrick Jones II. Jones, a redshirt senior, entered the season on every defensive watchlist possible and has not disappointed. In 2020, he’s tallied 8.0 sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss in eight games.
“It’s definitely a different challenge,” Darrisaw said. “Best d-line probably in the country that we probably will see all season. We all have to be locked in and key in on our assignments. Just ready to go and take it one play at a time.
“[Jones is] a great player. He’s a speed rusher. He knows how to work his hands and get his hands on you. He’s strong, so he doesn’t always have to go around you. Really just have to take it one play at a time…and focus.”
The battle in the trenches will be another litmus test not just for Darrisaw’s draft stock, but for the Virginia Tech offensive line as a whole. After the unit was heaped with praise to start the season, things have ticked down a bit. This could be the perfect opportunity for Vance Vice’s squad to showcase its worth again.
“I know it will be a physical game,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a really tough one, but only the strong survive. We’re not going to lay down.”