Offensive recruiting takes a step forward

The Hokies addressed their needs at every single position on the offensive side of the ball on Signing Day.  This is the most complete offensive class Tech has signed in quite some time.

Billy Ray Mitchell (l) and Tyrell Smith (r) are key to the future of Tech’s offensive line.


Recruiting quantity up front

Virginia Tech signed four true offensive linemen in the 2014 class.

OT Tyrell Smith
OG Billy Ray Mitchell
OG/C Colt Pettit
OG/C Eric Gallo

That’s a good step in the right direction in terms of numbers.  In the past, the Hokies at times have taken just one, two or even zero true offensive linemen in certain classes.  Instead, they believed that converting defensive tackles or tight ends could make up for the lack of true offensive line numbers.

Let’s check out the past numbers.  This list reflects only the true offensive linemen recruited in each class, with a few exceptions.  I’m going to give myself some leeway in more recent classes with guys like Greg Nosal.  For example, Nosal was listed as a tight end coming out of high school, but the Tech staff knew he would be an offensive lineman in college.  So, I’m going to count him as an offensive lineman (and Duane Brown, Sergio Render and Ed Wang … the Tech coaches had the offensive line in mind for those guys all along, regardless of how they were listed as recruits).

1994: 4
1995: 0
1996: 2
1997: 3
1998: 7
1999: 2
2000: 2
2001: 3
2002: 1
2003: 4
2004: 1
2005: 7
2006: 4
2007: 5
2008: 2
2009: 2
2010: 5
2011: 1
2012: 3
2013: 4
2014: 4

Virginia Tech has had some lean years on the offensive line, and we can usually point to previous recruiting classes to find out why.

1998: Tech’s offensive line was young and not particularly good in 1998.  Why?  Well, they didn’t sign any true offensive linemen in 1995, and they only signed two in 1996.  Over the four years before 1998, Tech signed just nine offensive linemen…just 2.25 per year.

2006-08: Tech signed just one offensive lineman in 2002, and just one offensive lineman in 2004. That’s not enough.  The coaching staff saw what was coming in 2005, so they sort of panicked and signed seven offensive linemen (including Sergio Render and Ed Wang).  However, that class featured Robert Norris, Richard Graham, Eric Davis, Brandon Holland Antonio North.  No wonder the Hokies struggled so much from 2006 through 2008.

2012-13: Over a four year span from 2008 through 2011, the Hokies signed just 10 offensive linemen.  That’s 2.5 offensive linemen per year.  Five of those 10 came in one class (2010).

Evaluating the futures of offensive linemen is hard.  That’s why you need to sign enough of them to give yourself some room for error.  For whatever reason, Tech has failed to do that in three different eras, under three different offensive line coaches: J. B. Grimes, Bryan Stinespring and Curt Newsome.  The fault lies with Frank Beamer.  It’s as simple as that.

I’m not saying that every recruiting class needs to have five offensive linemen.  However, I do think every recruiting class should have between three and five offensive linemen, depending on the year and the needs.  If Tech can average between 3.5 or four offensive linemen per class over a four year stretch, then they give themselves a better chance to succeed up front.  Obviously the evaluation, coaching and development skills must be there as well, but I think the “3-5 OL per year” philosophy should not only be a guideline for the Hokies, but it should be an actual rule.

This year Tech signed four offensive linemen.  I’m fine with that number, especially when I believe that Alston Smith and Wyatt Teller will be multi-year starters (and good ones) for the Hokies.