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. 3: Jeff Grimes, offensive line coach
This countdown has already featured center/guard Andrew Miller (No. 23) and offensive tackles Laurence Gibson and Jonathan McLaughlin (No. 8) and probably could have included the other two starting spots up front.
That just goes to show how important the play of the offensive line is going to be this year.
It’s fitting then that the man in charge of getting the most of that group, the recently-hired Grimes, comes in at No. 3 on the list, about as high as I could imagine putting a position coach who is not a coordinator on either side of the ball.
Grimes’ job is to sort through the mass of bodies to find the best starting five that he can put on the field. That’s no small task.
When he took over at Auburn, he was dealt a better hand, with two starters already entrenched and two more on a path to being major contributors on the national championship team the following year. There’s much more uncertainty on Tech’s line, with his two most experienced players, Miller and David Wang, coming of significant injuries, and little game experience beyond that.
But coaches are paid to sort that out.
There’s no misconception about how crucial the line’s play will be this season. Beset by injuries and lacking any true standouts, last year’s group had its problems, both in creating holes for runners and protecting Logan Thomas.
The Hokies will need to do both this year to be successful. Even the best running backs in the country can’t do much if there’s no hole to run through, and Thomas can’t be looking over his shoulder for pass rushers on every play.
There will probably be some growing pains. Grimes mixed and matched in the spring, trying to find a five he thinks plays best together (and the team’s short-yardage issues suggest that’s an ongoing process). That will likely drag into August before a starting five emerges, but even then it’s not final. Grimes’ history indicates he’s not averse to changing personnel in the middle of the season if things aren’t working.
The Hokies’ o-line is not a one-year fixer-upper, and the fact that Tech has taken four offensive line commitments in 2014 and is looking for a fifth shows how much the talent pool needed to be replenished.
But those players won’t arrive until next year and might not contribute for a while after that. In the interim, Grimes will have to get the current group to a certain level — and adopt a tough-minded, hard-nosed mindset — for the Hokies to accomplish any of their goals this season.
Coming Friday: He’s pretty intense.
- 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
- No. 8: Laurence Gibson and Jonathan McLaughlin, offensive tackles
- No. 7: Antone Exum’s right knee
- No. 6: Frank Beamer, head coach
- No. 5: James Gayle, defensive end
- No. 4: J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds, running backs