2002 Football Preview: Offensive Line

2002 Football Preview: Offensive Line

VT Insider's Chris Coleman previews the Virginia Tech offensive line for 2002. Coleman will give Tech fans a glimpse of what we can expect at other positions in the coming weeks.

The subject of much scrutiny in 2001, the Virginia Tech offensive line looks to be greatly improved in 2002. Already weakened by the graduation of four senior starters from 2000, the 2001 offensive line did not have the great short yardage running of Lee Suggs to work with. The 2002 version has a good mix of experience and youth, and it should be interesting to see how they develop as the year goes on. Let's take a look at the individual positions:

Offensive Tackle:
One word: big. Very big in fact. Senior Anthony Davis (6-4 320) will anchor one end of the line. A three year letterman, Davis started for the first time in 2001 and will be looked upon to be a leader for the group in 2002. Redshirt-sophomore Jon Dunn (6-7 324) will start at the other tackle position. Dunn is a physical specimen who saw a lot of playing time as a reserve last season. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Dunn has a bright future. However, he must continue to get stronger in order to maximize his potential. Davis and Dunn will be backed up by freshman Reggie Butler (6-5 324) and redshirt-junior Jacob Gibson (6-4 288). Butler enrolled in January in order to get bigger and stronger. He is still eligible for a redshirt year, but he likely will not use it. Gibson has starting experience as a guard last year, and could see time at both positions this year.

Offensive Guard:
Redshirt-senior Luke Owens (6-3 312) will start at one guard spot and sophomore James Miller (6-6 310) will likely be the starter at the other spot. Owens, a 3 year letterman, took over the starting job from Jacob Gibson in the middle of the season last year and never relinquished it. He is a big, experienced player who should be very solid. Miller saw a lot of action as a backup in 2001 as a true freshman, and he should be much improved in 2002. He has the frame to put on more weight and he has a tremendous upside. Candidates for the backup spots include redshirt-freshmen Will Montgomery (6-3 286) and Curtis Bradley (6-2 299), as well as redshirt-junior Anthony Nelson (6-4 334). Montgomery, a walk on, caught the eye of the coaches during his redshirt year in 2001. He has the ability to join the ranks of great Tech walk-ons such as John Engelberger and Jarrett Ferguson. The Tech coaches strongly considered playing Bradley as a true freshman last season, but ultimately decided in favor of a redshirt, which was in his best interest. Nelson is probably the longshot of the group. He has great size and tremendous strength, but he has always lacked the footwork to be a good offensive lineman. He needs to step up in 2002, or he could be the odd man out at offensive guard for the rest of his career.

Center:
No question marks at this position. Jake Grove (6-3 286) has the starting position. After starting at guard last season, Grove moves back inside to center where he admits he feels more comfortable. He has a chance to be a great offensive lineman, and he could be the best center in the Big East Conference before his career is over. Redshirt-sophomore Robert Ramsey (6-2 306) will most likely win the backup job. He should see some quality playing time and provide solid depth.

Another player to watch out for is incoming recruit Brandon Gore. Gore is a mammoth of a man and could figure into the equation at either guard or tackle.

Overall:
The offensive line as a whole has a lot of proven players such as Davis, Grove, and Owens. It also boasts the enthusiasm of youth in players such as Dunn, Bradley, Ramsey, Butler, and Miller. Overall this should be a very solid offensive line, probably the best in the Big East with the exception of Miami. They also have the luxury of blocking for possibly the two best running backs in the nation, Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones. A key intangible is how well will the offensive line be able to adjust to the new offensive formations and plays that will be implemented by new offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. If they don't adjust well, you could see a season similar to 2001, but if they execute the new blocking assignments well then by the end of 2002, Tech fans will be very used to seeing Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones celebrating in the endzone.

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