“My film, coach said, was one of the best offensive tackle films he saw,” said Teller, who first approached Grimes about the idea one day after practice. “He said if he was still at Auburn [last year], he would have offered me.”
Knowing that bit of information and having an eagerness to get on the field helped Teller decide that for now, he’d like to move to the offensive side of the ball to help the Hokies at a position of need. Last Thursday, he went from fourth-team defensive tackle to second-team offensive tackle overnight, putting himself in a position to possibly play.
“He wanted to do that,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who was as high on Teller as anyone, having recruited him out of Liberty High in Bealeton. “Which just shows his wanting to put the team first. I think that says a big thing about him.
“I told him, ‘You go over there, we’ll get you back … hopefully.’”
Hopefully is the key word. Now that Teller is at tackle, Grimes might never give him back. The athletic, long-armed 6-foot-5, 282-pounder seems like an ideal fit at tackle, fitting the mold Grimes has sought in his 2014 recruiting class, with a nasty streak to boot.
“It’s not easy, but he’s athletic,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “And he can get to people sometimes that a non-athletic guy can. So he’s got that advantage.”
The technique, at least for now, is a different story. Teller is well behind even the three offensive linemen who are in his same class, let alone players who have been in the program for years. Jonathan McLaughlin and Parker Osterloh arrived last January and have a full spring under their belts. Kyle Chung, who like Teller arrived in July, has a summer of work on the line plus a 2 1/2-week head start in camp.
A mauler in high school, Teller had a few schools that would have accommodated him on that side of the ball. Oregon and South Carolina said whichever side he wanted to play on, they would let him. But now that he’s doing it at Tech, he called playing on the offensive line “a totally different ballgame.”
“Offensive tackle in high school didn’t help me out at all for this,” Teller said. “Nothing. Everything is different. My kicksteps aren’t close to where they need to be. My stance is horrible. Everything is critiqued. It was kind of like defense, you’re hitting them. Now I’m the one getting hit. So it’s a little bit different.
“I’ve just got to take the blows and stay in front. It’s kind of how offensive tackles are and the good ones are the ones that are good at it.”
Teller has started on the left side, which matches him up against J.R. Collins or Dadi Nicolas in practice. They haven’t gone easy on him. But they haven’t pulled out all the stops either.
“They know that I’m new at it,” Teller said. “They know that I’m not the best offensive tackle. So they’re not grabbing me by the throat or hitting me in the face or anything like that. That comes next week. They’re going through my shoulder. They’re helping me go through my stuff.”
He knows if he plays against Alabama, the Crimson Tide won’t be that polite.
“No, no, no,” he said. “They’re going to hit me in the face.”
Whether he plays this year remains to be seen. Foster said he is a good prospect but is probably “still a year away.” Teller said he’s fine with his frontside blocks, but it’s the backsides and all the calls that are difficult, particularly for someone who has played the position less than a week.
“If I put my mind to it and I work really, really hard, I feel like I can help the team,” Teller said. “If need be, I could help the team. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Hopefully I become better than I want to be.”
The move, as of now, doesn’t sound permanent, although it could be. Teller said the coaches have told him that he could move back to the defensive line next year if he wants to, especially with a large signing class of offensive linemen coming in to bolster the ranks.
“But if everything works out and I’m good at it, I’m going to stay,” Teller said. “If we need help on the d-line, I’ll move there. Wherever coach needs me.”