The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
Three of the offensive linemen expected to start — center Andrew Miller, left tackle Nick Becton and right tackle Vinston Painter – have been in the program for a while. Miller and Becton both had significant roles last year and versatile senior Michael Via is another fifth-year player who has been in the mix.
But the guard spots are where there’s relative inexperience, with Brent Benedict and David Wang having rarely played in games for varying reasons.
Benedict, a 6-foot-5, 311-pound sophomore from Jacksonville, transferred from Georgia last year, sitting out per NCAA rules and working on the scout team. Originally a tackle, he moved to guard in the spring to better take advantage of his power and keep him away from situations where he would have to block out in open space, so he’s still adjusting to the position. He’ll have big shoes to fill following two-time second-team All-ACC pick Jaymes Brooks.
Wang, a 6-foot-1, 286-pound junior, was expected to have a significant role last year and rotate with Greg Nosal at left guard, but he broke his foot at East Carolina, an injury that kept him sidelined the rest of the season. The coaches have high hopes for Wang, the younger brother of former Hokies standout Ed Wang.
Offensive line coach Curt Newsome calls him technician but would like to see more aggression from the junior. Wang has high potential, having been named the most improved player in the spring of 2011 before getting hurt.
An offensive line’s overall success will never be about how good each of the individual players perform but rather how they play together, something that last year’s group did particularly well. Still, there can’t be any weak links in that chain.
And while Painter is a key component and will have a challenge locking down the edge (spoiler: he’ll appear later in this countdown), Benedict and Wang will have to prove that they’re capable of playing at a high level at the interior spots. If they don’t, Via and backup center Caleb Farris are waiting in the wings.
Coming Sunday: He’s a school record holder.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker