Hokies see improvement on offensive line

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
4:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If Virginia Tech's offensive line appears a little more athletic in Saturday's spring game, that's because it is -- but not because of the reason right tackle Blake DeChristopher first surmised:

"I guess it's not eating sloppy food," he joked. "No, I think we're starting to recruit more athletic guys. It helps a lot, having the wind to get through a game, not getting winded easily, that plays a huge part in it."

Bingo.

Four of the five offensive linemen who have been taking the majority of reps with the first team this spring are former tight ends. It's part of a recent change in recruiting philosophy that could help the root of the Hokies recent offensive problems.

"With the zone play and those types of things, we've gone the last few years in trying to find more athletic guys," said offensive line coach Curt Newsome. "A while back it was a bigger, heavier type of guy. We kind of like to grow our own, get 'em in here, let them get in the strength program, have the good feet and be able to move around. And I feel good about where we're at right now. We've got four starters back from the bowl game. We've had a real good spring."

The Hokies needed progress at tackle, and improved their depth inside this spring, albeit at the expense of guard Sergio Render, who sat out this spring following shoulder surgery. Render is entering his fourth season as a starter, but his absence allowed for Greg Nosal to take a step forward. Nosal, a converted tight end, was a "big surprise" this spring, Newsome said. He made the transition from tackle to guard, and his improvement will help the staff with its overall goal of rotating more players up front. Too often they were hesitant to take players out for a series because of a lack of confidence in the backups. That appears to have started to change.

"I feel pretty comfortable with everybody right now," said left tackle Ed Wang, another converted tight end who finished last season with impressive performances in the ACC championship and Orange Bowl. "I feel like we're getting better every day. We are a lot more athletic than we were. We just have to keep working to get better. It was a work in progress. We just have to pick up where we left off last year."

If the Hokies are going to contend for more than the ACC championship, they know the offense needs to take a significant step forward. Even though there were an unusual amount of young players at the skill positions, improvement has also been needed up front.

"We've got a lot of weight on our shoulders right now as an offensive line, but we're doing good this spring," said DeChristopher. "We're all focused. We all want to do the right thing and lead the offense because it all starts up front and that's what we're trying to do right now."

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