Hokies' offensive line key in 2010

It's almost impossible not to mention running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams when talking about the 2010 Hokies, as the two 1,000-yard rushers are two of the main reasons Virginia Tech will enter this fall as one of the top teams in the country.

Unless the offensive line comes together, though, the duo will be about as productive as former Clemson running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller were in 2008.

That season, Clemson ranked 99th nationally in rushing offense, and the offensive line was one of the major contributors to the meltdown that was Tommy Bowden's final season. The Tigers ranked 103rd in the nation that year in sacks allowed.

Last year, Virginia Tech was able to run the ball well with Williams, but the pass protection has to continue to improve. The Hokies ranked No. 83 in the country in sacks allowed, and that was with Sergio Render and Ed Wang. This year, the group has to replace those veterans and the three established players returning -- Blake DeChristopher, Jaymes Brooks and Beau Warren -- combined for 35 starts last year. Nick Becton impressed the staff this spring at left tackle and should be a capable starter there. At guard, Greg Nosal played in all 12 games last year and got some much-needed experience rotating in at right and left guard.

How quickly this group can become a cohesive unit will help determine how long the Hokies hang onto their high preseason expectations. For Clemson in 2008, those hopes were all but dashed in Week 1 against Alabama. The Tigers had zero yards rushing in that game -- a painful reminder that even Thunder and Lightning won't get far without help from a solid front.