The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. Next up is …
No. 8: Laurence Gibson and Jonathan McLaughlin, offensive tackles
How up in the air is Virginia Tech’s offensive tackle situation heading into 2013? Nobody’s sure if it will, in fact, be Gibson and McLaughlin who will start at the tackle spots to begin the season
There appears to be a very good chance, but with new line coach Jeff Grimes, who mixed and matched throughout the spring and didn’t rule out doing the same in August, anything is in play.
Still, based on the spring, it would seem likely that Gibson and McLaughlin will be the bookends of the offensive line. The 6-foot-6, 303-pound Gibson started working at tackle last season as a backup to Vinston Painter on the right side. The position began to sink in this spring, when he was named the most improved offensive player.
The 6-foot-4, 306-pound McLaughlin probably wasn’t far behind in consideration for that honor. The former East Carolina commit prepped last fall at Fork Union but seized the opportunity in front of him after enrolling at Virginia Tech in January. He shot up the depth chart and worked primarily with the first team at left tackle, becoming one of the most pleasant surprises of the spring.
Both seem to have the kind of hard-nosed mentality Grimes is looking for on the line, confident and competitive. The rest, Grimes said repeatedly in the spring, comes with experience.
That’s where both are severely lacking. Gibson, a redshirt junior, has played all of 27 snaps on offense. McLaughlin, a true freshman, obviously has yet to play in a college game.
That’s not ideal, but it’s where Tech’s line is right now. Painter and Nick Becton played nearly every down last year at the tackle spots, turning in solid but not spectacular seasons. At the very least, they provided consistency for a group that was constantly shuffling things around on the interior.
Now the Hokies are starting over at tackle. And while it’s too soon to say how Gibson and McLaughlin will fare — and it should be noted that Grimes likes their potential — it stands to figure that a pair of first-time starters are going to have their share of growing pains. And a quarterback that is constantly worried about pressure of the edge is usually not an effective one.
The question is: can Gibson and McLaughlin progress quickly enough for the good to outweigh the bad?
Coming Sunday: Re-do. I read my list wrong previously. And tomorrow’s entry will sync up well with a story I have in the paper.
- No. 25: Ryan Malleck, tight end
- No. 24: Defensive subs
- No. 23: Andrew Miller, center
- No. 22: BeamerBall
- No. 21: Ronny Vandyke, whip linebacker
- No. 20: D.J. Coles, wide receiver
- No. 19: Cody Journell kicker
- No. 18: Tariq Edwards, inside linebacker
- No. 17: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 16: A.J. Hughes, punter
- No. 15: J.R. Collins and Dadi Nicolas, defensive ends
- No. 14: Demitri Knowles and Josh Stanford, wide receivers
- No. 13: Kyle Fuller, cornerback
- No. 12: Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, defensive tackles
- No. 11: Young cornerbacks
- No. 10: Jack Tyler, inside linebacker
- No. 9: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator