The State Of Virginia Tech Offensive Line Recruiting

Virginia Tech
New Virginia Tech offensive line coach Joe Rudolph will sign a big class in 2023. (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech fans are excited about Joe Rudolph and his history of developing quality offensive linemen at Wisconsin. The Hokies already have four commitments from offensive linemen for the 2023 recruiting class, so I decided to take a look back at Wisconsin’s offensive line recruiting during Rudolph’s tenure.

This won’t be an analysis of star rankings. The Badgers had a history of producing good linemen long before Rudolph arrived, and as a result, they’ve been well-positioned to sign highly-touted offensive linemen. Instead, I want to talk about the pure number of players recruited at Wisconsin and what that might mean for the Hokies in the future.

The first thing you have to remember about Wisconsin football is that the program is very selective when it comes to recruiting.  Here are the number of scholarship offers it extended in each class from 2016 through 2020…

2016: 265
2017: 157
2018: 216
2019: 155
2020: 152
2021: 125
Average: 178.33

Even that number is a bit misleading. Many of the 265 offers in the 2016 class were actually offers from the previous staff. It’s highly unlikely that Paul Chryst actually extended that many offers to 2016 kids when he arrived in 2015, so the average number is probably lower than 178.33. As a comparison, Virginia Tech’s average number of offers during the same timespan was 241.67.

I’ve always operated under the belief that it’s a good idea to sign a large number of offensive linemen. There are always injuries at that position, and it can be tough to project that position anyway, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some margin for error by signing a large number of players.

Apparently Joe Rudolph doesn’t agree with that line of thinking. I used the 247 database to see how many offensive linemen he signed during his Wisconsin tenure. Here are the numbers, and by the way, it includes defensive linemen and tight ends who were converted into offensive linemen…

2016: 3
2017: 5
2018: 2
2019: 2
2020: 5
2021: 3
Total: 20

That’s just 20 guys over six classes. I didn’t include the 2022 class because it’s not yet clear if there are any DL or TE who will eventually move to the offensive line. As Virginia Tech fans, I think we’d all be terrified if the Hokies signed just four offensive linemen over the course of two classes as the Badgers did in 2018 and 2019, yet that type of strategy has seemed to work for Rudolph. He has confidence in his own ability to evaluate talent and develop those players, and he certainly had confidence in Wisconsin’s strength and conditioning program.

Thus far, Rudolph has secured four offensive line commitments for the 2023 class, and the Hokies are still actively recruiting other linemen as well, so this looks set to be one of his biggest classes, if not the biggest. So far, the class is balanced between two players who project at tackle and two who project at guard.

OT Hannes Hammer: Hammer is an excellent athlete, but probably a bit raw. He played quarterback and wide receiver in his native Germany, and didn’t make the switch to offensive tackle until he moved to Roanoke late last summer. However, I believe his ceiling is quite high.

OT Gabriel Arena: I view Arena as a tackle, though it’s possible that he could be