The First Bank & Trust Company Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: Joe Rudolph’s Offensive Line Rotation

Virginia Tech, Joe Rudolph
How will Virginia Tech offensive line coach Joe Rudolph rotate his offensive line? (Jon Fleming)

1) How does Joe Rudolph work player rotation? We’ve talked about the lack of depth at tackle, but not how Rudolph handles the rotation. Does he try to get regular work for backups, or does he tend to stick with the first string until games are out of hand? – VTKev80

Chris Coleman: That’s a very good question. Pro Football Focus is a great tool, as it breaks down the snaps for every single player on the team. Here’s how Wisconsin’s rotation broke down in 2021…

OT: Two regular starters, plus one backup who played 268 snaps.
OG: Two regular starters, plus one backup who played 175 snaps.
C: A regular starter, plus one backup who played 143 snaps.

I’ll skip 2020 because the Big 10 played a limited season due to COVID. Here’s how it worked out in 2019…

OT: Two regular starters, plus one backup who played 183 snaps.
OG: One regular starter, plus three others who played between 282 and 438 snaps.
C: One regular starter who played nearly all the snaps.

Here’s 2018…

OT: Two regular starters, plus two backups who played 288 and 290 snaps.
OG: Two regular starters, and none of the backups got much playing time.
C: A regular starter, and the backup only got garbage time.

Here’s 2017…

OT: Two regular starters, and the backups didn’t play much.
OG: Two regular starters, and two backups who played 188 and 235 snaps.
C: One regular starter, and a backup who played a few snaps in garbage time.

I think it varies, and it varies depending on how good he thinks his backups are. It seems that his deepest line overall was in 2021, which makes sense, because he had multiple seasons to recruit and build that offensive line as he saw fit. For other seasons, he seemed to have better depth at certain positions, and how much the starters played depended on the quality of the players behind him.

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In short, I think Rudolph will rotate to a certain extent if he feels like he can. However, if he doesn’t trust the backups, I don’t think he’ll play them unless he feels it’s necessary. I asked him on Wednesday how many of his linemen he felt like he could trust, and he sort of avoided the question by giving a generic answer about how he could trust the starting five.

OL rotation will be one of the things I’ll have my eye on during the ODU game.