He saw the exact opposite from Brent Benedict.
“He was a guy who didn’t quit working when he didn’t win a starting job initially,” Grimes said.
That was the big reason for the Hokies’ minor shakeup on the offensive line last week, with the 6-foot-5, 292-pound Benedict replacing Laurence Gibson as the starting right tackle, a move Grimes said wasn’t so much Gibson slipping as Benedict raising his game.
A couple things make the move striking. Benedict only recently begun working at tackle again. Even then, as the sixth option on the line, he split his workload at four positions — both backup guard and tackle spots.
A tackle coming out of The Bolles School in Jacksonville, he started there at Georgia in 2010 while redshirting and rehabbing a knee injury, then for the fall semester while sitting out upon transferring to Virginia Tech in 2011.
The Hokies moved him to guard the following spring, and he started six games at right guard last season. Most of his work under Grimes was at guard before Mark Shuman‘s recent knee surgery forced Tech to get somebody else game ready at tackle. One of the few reserve linemen with experience, Benedict got a look and played a few snaps there against Western Carolina in Week 2 before starting there against East Carolina.
“I’m making some adjustments and getting used to it,” Benedict said. “And that comes with time and reps in practice and in games.”
The concern of the old staff was that Benedict struggled in space, able to be more of a masher in a confined spot like guard. But Grimes sees plenty of tackle skills in him.
“He surprised me,” Grimes said. “He did a little bit better at tackle even than he had played at guard. I think he might be a little bit more natural of a tackle than a guard. … He uses his hands better and he’s got really good strength but just seems to utilize his skills a little bit better when he’s playing a little bit more in space.”
Grimes said as of now, Benedict remains the starter at right tackle — “Something would have to change that,” he said — but that doesn’t mean the competition is over, especially after a week in which the offensive line struggled to open holes against East Carolina.
Grimes reiterated running backs coach Shane Beamer‘s stance that ECU nose guard Terry Williams might be the best the Hokies face this year. The Pirates’ odd-man front also gave Virginia Tech’s line problems. With limited double team opportunities, the center and tackles faced numerous one-on-one situations.
“There were times when we just didn’t get the job done on one-on-one matchups,” said Grimes, who thought pass protection was OK, but added: “None of us are pleased with where we are running the football based on that game.”
It’s why the competition for playing time at every position along the line will continue each week.
“I said this is our starting five right now, but it could change,” Grimes said. “And many times in the past I’ve changed it because I feel like I want guys to feel they have to earn their job every week.”