Up front, Virginia Tech has a solid starting five on the offensive line. Every player has seen some sort of Power 5 football reps at some point in their career, while the experience level is a wide range.
But behind that first group is where the question marks linger. The Hokies have 14 scholarship offensive linemen, but outside the starting five, only a handful have taken a collegiate snap.
Here’s a list of the linemen on scholarship, which is sorted by position and class:
Brody Meadows (6-7, 320, Fr.)
*Dzansi and Jordan are using their COVID year, while Hanson, Clements, K. Moore and Schick all have a COVID year to use down the road.
Experienced Starting Five
Barring injuries, here’s a breakdown of what Virginia Tech football’s starting offensive line will look like in the fall with career starts, appearances and snaps:
LT: Silas Dzansi (6-5, 335, r-Sr.*): 38 app., 23 starts, 1,403 snaps
LG: Jesse Hanson (6-5, 304, r-Jr.*): 15 app., 0 starts, 26 snaps
C: Johnny Jordan (6-1, 300, r-Sr.*): 40 app., 19 starts, 1,627 snaps
RG: Kaden Moore (6-3, 313, r-So.*): 13 app., 13 starts, 660 snaps
RT: Parker Clements (6-8, 3-5, r-So.*): 11 app., 7 starts, 449 snaps
Total: 117 app., 62 starts, 4,165 snaps
That’s a lot of experience. Think about it like this, too: Moore and Clements gained all of those reps in 2021 in their second season.
Hanson is obviously the outlier when it comes to snaps, but he sat behind Lecitus Smith for a few years, and Doug Nester and Bryan Hudson were ahead on the depth chart in 2020. But he’s entering his fourth season in the program, while Jordan and Dzansi are both sixth-year players.
Per PFF, all five of those guys put up solid offensive grades last season:
With new position coach Joe Rudolph, who joined the Hokies’ staff from Wisconsin in the winter, the Hokies are expected to make major strides. Dzansi even mentioned it at the podium at the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte.
“I don’t want to be rude, but Coach Rudolph is definitely an upgrade in our room,” Dzansi said.
Jordan said Rudolph is super detail-oriented with everything the group does and focuses on the little things when it comes to technique.
“That’s one thing Coach Rudolph really emphasizes: just being at the right spot at the right time,” Jordan told Tech Sideline at Tech’s media day. “Not off by an inch, not under by an inch, just where you need to be when you need to be.”
If Virginia Tech is able to stay healthy, it should have a successful season up front thanks to a veteran group with a coach breathing new energy into the room.
Lack Of Depth
While the starting five is a solid unit, there is a major dropoff right behind it, something Brent Pry identified early.
“We need to continue to establish depth on the offensive line,” Pry said at Tech’s media day.
That’s the No. 1 goal for Rudolph, and it’s no simple task. The nine other scholarship players in that group, along with the walk-ons like William Jones and Dimitri Georgiadis, have little to no experience. Bob Schick, Nikolai Bujnowski and Jack Hollifield have made the occasional appearance, the majority coming in the Pinstripe Bowl in December against Maryland, but that won’t cut it in the ACC.
What happens if the worst happens and one of the starting tackles has to miss time due to an injury? Who will fill in?
Rudolph told Tech Sideline that there’s a group of guys he feels like he can trust. It also helped when the new class arrived and spread the numbers around a little bit more in practice. Braelin Moore moved over from the defensive line around the same time, too. That’s provided Rudolph with numbers, but he’ll have to mold the group to his liking.
Moore and Xavier Chaplin are two names of young guys that have stood out.
“I just thought wherever he was going to be, he’s eventually going to be a really good leader in this program,” Rudolph said of Moore. “I’m like, ‘damn, that kid’s got something to him.’ And when Coach [Pry] approached me about it [position change], I was like, ‘absolutely.'”
Moore’s been practicing at both guard spots and center, all spots Rudolph thinks Moore can play well, though left guard is his primary position. As far as Chaplin is concerned at tackle, Rudolph said he’s done a good job so far throughout fall camp.
“I really am proud of him,” Rudolph said. “I wasn’t sure, but school went really well and football has been going really well. And he’s been kind of thrown into the mix, and I’m proud of that group. … He’s moved really well, and everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s embraced and done it real well.”
Hollifield has seen practice reps at both guard and center, and he’s currently the No. 2 behind Jordan. Schick is a former JUCO transfer from Snow College in Utah, and he was opposite of Chaplin with the No. 2 offense on Aug. 5. Moore, Hollifield and German Danijel Miletic rounded out the second string offense that practice. Johnny Garrett is the other name at tackle, though he’s a true freshman like Chaplin and Moore.
Three other true freshmen – Brody Meadows, Johnny Dickson and Hunter Mclain, are the other members of Tech’s 2022 offensive line class, but Chaplin and Moore seem to be more advanced at the moment. Ideally, they’ll see action in a blowout win or two before redshirting this fall.