“I think we need to become more consistent,” Virginia Tech’s o-line coach said. “I don’t think we’re the only offense line in America that feels that way. But we show signs. We’re doing the right things and then we have other moments where we’re not.”
It’s tough to gauge exactly what the Hokies have on their revamped offensive line through two games, the second of which was played on short rest and against an FCS team in Austin Peay that allowed Newsome to substitute liberally throughout.
Newsome’s opinion of the line so far? “We’ve been pretty good in protection. I’d like to see us create a little more space in the run game.”
The Hokies have allowed four sacks through two games — two in each game — but have mostly kept quarterback Logan Thomas upright.
The rushing game hasn’t been nearly as effective as last year, though. Through two games, Virginia Tech is averaging 3.88 yards per carry, down from the 4.43 last year (insert small sample size warning here).
But most troubling was the group’s inability to push a smaller Austin Peay front off the line of scrimmage with consistency last Saturday. This was most evident when Thomas was stuffed easily on a quarterback sneak on fourth down in the second quarter.
“That can be a lot of reasons,” Newsome said. “Do they put an extra hat down there? What they do too. But no, I think we will improve in that area.”
Newsome is still trying to find the right mix up front. Tackles Nick Becton and Vinston Painter and center Andre Miller, if his injured ankle is fine, have held their spots down. But there have been — and looks like there will continue to be — rotations at the guard spots.
Michael Via and Brent Benedict rotated at right guard against Austin Peay, with Via getting 37 snaps and Benedict 27. Benedict held the edge in knockdowns, 6-4, even though his grade for the game wasn’t very high.
“[He] brings a real physical presence out there,” Newsome said.
At left guard, Newsome said Matt Arkema is closing ground on starter David Wang. Wang graded out at 85 percent against Austin Peay with two knockdowns in 48 plays. Arkema, who got hit with a costly holding call that halted one drive, graded out at 82 percent in 17 plays, with two knockdowns.
Caleb Farris has progressed too. He filled in for an injured Miller at center more than planned last Saturday, grading out at 80 percent in 40 snaps. He had two bad shotgun snaps earlier in the second half that he sailed on Thomas on a wet field.
“He puts a little more juice on it than Andrew does, so we put a couple snaps on the ground, which was disappointing,” Newsome said. “But other than that, I thought Caleb played well.”
The biggest surprise might be a backup tackle, though. Redshirt sophomore Laurence Gibson, a Hargrave product once ranked as the No. 2 prep prospect by Rivals, has made big strides as Painter’s backup after moving from guard. He played 10 snaps there Saturday and had a nice block on Tony Gregory‘s touchdown run.
While his prospect for serious playing time this year might be slim, the 6-foot-6, 303-pound Gibson gives Virginia Tech a little bit of hope looking ahead to 2013, when the tackle positions will be overhauled once Painter, Becton and Via are gone.
“He has really in this camp overall been one of the most improved guys,” Newsome said. I like what he’s all about. He just keeps getting better. He’s a guy with three years to play and I think he’ll definitely play here before he leaves.”