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May 12, 2009

Tech's young offensive linemen enjoy terrific spring practices

By: Jimmy Robertson


Left tackles

77 Ed Wang (6-5, 301, r-Sr.)

54 Nick Becton (6-5, 292, r-Fr.)

Left guards

75 Greg Nosal (6-6, 285, r-Soph.)

76 William Alvarez (6-4, 326, r-Soph.)

74 Jim Brown (6-3, 311, Fr.)


60 Beau Warren (6-3, 277, r-Jr.)

67 Michael Via (6-6, 277, r-Fr.)

57 Bo Gentry (5-10, 238, r-Fr.)

Right guards

68 Jaymes Brooks (6-2, 300, r-Soph.)

71 Vinston Painter (6-5, 310, r-Fr.)

Right tackles

62 Blake DeChristopher (6-5, 303, r-Soph.)

72 Andrew Lanier (6-5, 274, r-Soph.)

64 Richard Graham (6-6, 292, r-Sr.)

Slowly, but surely, the Hokies are starting to build some quality depth along the offensive line. That was evident this spring, as Tech’s offensive line refused to let spring practice become a sack-fest for Bud Foster’s bunch.

Starting at the left tackle spot, Ed Wang anchors the line as the leader and enjoyed a tremendous spring. Behind him is Nick Becton, a redshirt freshman with all the talent in the world. He just needs a little more “seasoning.”

“Ed had a really good spring,” offensive line coach Curt Newsome said. “He played faster and was more physical. He finished strong last fall and it really carried over.

“Nick’s not quite ready now, but he took some strides. He needs to get used to the speed of the game and he needs to keep his pads down. He needs to play lower.”

Beside Wang at left guard, projected starter Sergio Render missed spring practice with an injury, thus allowing Greg Nosal to get a majority of the reps. Nosal, a redshirt freshman, turned out to be the surprise of spring practice. William Alvarez came out of the spring behind Nosal, but was inconsistent, especially compared to Nosal.

“He [Nosal] put himself in position to help us somewhere, whether he stays at guard or we move him back to tackle,” Newsome said. “He needs to continue to get bigger, stronger and faster, but by the end of spring, he was playing much faster.”

At center, Beau Warren steps in to replace the departed Ryan Shuman. The Hokies lose little in this trade, as Warren has started a few games and knows the system. Redshirt freshman Michael Via worked with the second team, and he caught the coaches’ eyes with his play.

“Beau plays hard and fast,” Newsome said. “I want him to work on recognizing defenses and work on his shotgun snaps. The big thing is I’d like to see him get bigger. He’s at 280 and I think we can get 10 more pounds on him.

Greg Nosal

“Michael just has football smarts. He’s a coach’s son, so he knows the game. He came in at 255 pounds and now he’s 277. He had a very good spring and we potentially could move him somewhere else.”

At right guard, Jaymes Brooks – who started the Orange Bowl – was enjoying a fantastic spring until he sprained his ankle in one of the scrimmages and that cost him the remainder of spring ball. Richard Graham filled in on the first team once Brooks went down and Vinston Painter backed him up.

“I like what Jaymes is all about,” Newsome said. “He has some pop and he knows what he’s doing. He had an excellent spring.

“Richard is going to be a backup for us at a number of positions. Vinston, though, needs to improve. He showed some signs and he has the strength, but he needs to be more physical and play much faster.”

Finally, at right tackle, Blake DeChristopher returns after playing well last fall as a redshirt freshman. He concentrated on pass protection this spring and got much better.

“We really wanted to concentrate on his footwork,” Newsome said. “That was the one area where he needed to improve and I thought he got much better. He’s just a solid, coachable guy and I think he could have a big year for us.”

Behind DeChristopher is Andrew Lanier, who moved over from the tight end spot last fall. Like Nosal, Lanier surprised with his steady play.

“He had a good spring,” Newsome said. “He’s athletic. I like how he moves and I like how competitive he is. He needs to work this summer and get bigger, faster and stronger.”

Overall, the unit is much more athletic – four of the linemen are former tight ends and one can expect that trend to continue – and there are more offensive linemen in terms of numbers. The Hokies can start rotating offensive linemen over the course of a game.

“We’re getting there,” Newsome said.