For the last three seasons, Christian Darrisaw has been a godsend for Virginia Tech football.
The former prep recruit turned first-round pick anchored Virginia Tech’s offensive line during that span of time, and played a critical role in the Hokies’ offense when on the field. But with Darrisaw now playing for money, the question for Virginia Tech is this:
Where do the Hokies go from here?
It’s not like the cupboard is bare. Virginia Tech has returning offensive linemen ready to go this season. Guys like Lecitus Smith (No. 54 at right), Brock Hoffman and Luke Tenuta are back in the starting lineup, and some offensive linemen who’ve been in the program are ready to fight for a spot.
But can any of them pick up the mantle that Darrisaw left behind?
Rather than one man doing it all, it needs to be a collaborative effort from the aforementioned returning linemen. Together, they can provide enough stability in production to maintain the offensive line’s position as an asset instead of a liability.
Smith has the best chance of catching on to an NFL roster out of anyone in that group. The 6-foot-3 tight end-turned guard has started each of the last two seasons, and in 2020, Smith was a Third Team All-ACC player per Pro Football Focus (PFF). ACC Network’s Eric Mac Lain put Smith on his second team.
While Smith undoubtedly benefited from playing next to Darrisaw for two full seasons, Smith can hold his own. And he’ll have to take on more responsibility with Tenuta moving to left tackle.
Left tackle was always the ceiling for Tenuta, who stands at a massive 6-foot-9. Tenuta’s incredible length makes him a perfect fit against pass rushers. But with Darrisaw in the program, Tenuta was limited to the right side.
Tenuta wasn’t a star, but he played a big role on one of the best offensive lines in the ACC last season. He did miss two games last season but was still voted to PFF’s All-ACC Third Team.
Hoffman might just be the X-Factor of this group. There’s little doubt that Hoffman plays with the most edge of anyone on the team and has been a productive player. But Hoffman has a penchant for taking things too far on the field, putting his unit behind the chains with unnecessary personal fouls.
In terms of his peers, Hoffman is widely respected. He works hard and empties the tank every Saturday. But he needs to harness that energy properly.
These three players — Smith, Tenuta and Hoffman — need to form a triumvirate of stability. Separated, maybe none of these three players individually can be capable of providing the impact necessary to fill the void created by Darrisaw’s departure. But together, this trio can hold down the fort and push the unit forward.
Offensive line coach Vance Vice may not be able to fill the talent gap from last year to this year, but he can maintain the production of his unit.
Getting Smith, Tenuta and Hoffman to work together will get things moving in the right direction.