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May 18, 2012

Offensive line progresses toward the end of spring ball

By: Jimmy Robertson

David Wang

In the first scrimmage of the spring, Virginia Tech’s offense gave up 11 sacks, and concern about the offensive line – already at a high level among Hokie Nation – rocketed.

But offensive line coach Curt Newsome knew his unit needed a little time to develop some cohesion and chemistry. By the end of spring practice, the first unit looked much better, and in fact, played very well in the final scrimmage before the scheduled Maroon-White game.

“It was a new group,” Newsome said. “We had some guys coming off injuries. We had some guys who hadn’t been out there. I knew it would take a little time.

“They gelled as a unit. Our blitz pick-up was better. Our protection of the quarterback was better. We were able to run the football some. I just thought we showed overall improvement.”

Coming out of spring practice, the first-team unit consisted of tackles Nick Becton and Vinston Painter, guards David Wang and Brent Benedict and steady center Andrew Miller, who really anchors the unit. He started all 14 games a year ago and is the only returning starter on the offensive line.

“Andrew was good as a leader,” Newsome said. “I thought he brought the guys together. This is a group that will work a ton this summer on their own, and he’ll be the leader of that. He was the communicator out there, and when things weren’t going well, I thought he did it in a positive way. I think he’ll be a big factor in the fall on how we do.”

Newsome also loved what he saw out of David Wang, who is replacing Greg Nosal at left guard. Wang missed nearly all of last season with a broken foot, but showed no ill effects this spring.

“He is technically about as good as we’ve played with out there,” Newsome said. “He’s ready to play.”

Becton and Painter played very well at the tackle spots. Newsome considers Becton a returning starter because Becton played more than 500 snaps last fall. Painter took advantage of an injury to Michael Via and enjoyed his best spring since arriving in Blacksburg.

“I think he got into that back-up role [last season], and that’s how he practiced throughout the season, knowing that Blake [DeChristopher] had gotten all the reps and there wasn’t a big chance of him [Painter] getting many,” Newsome said of Painter. “He got in that mode, and I think he got out of it this spring. He worked at it a lot harder. He knows this is his last go-round.”

At right guard, Benedict came out of spring in the top spot. But Newsome plans on giving Caleb Farris reps at right guard in addition to working him at center. He wants not only to develop some depth, but also create competition that makes both players better.

“Caleb has extremely good feet and from a technical standpoint, he’s a little ahead [of Benedict],” Newsome said. “We’ll make that a battle in camp. Brent is very good in one-on-one battles versus a down guy. Where his improvement needs to come is in the protection phase. But he’s got great work habits. I couldn’t be more pleased with how he works at it.”

Newsome also likes the improvement shown by Matt Arkema, who played both center and guard this spring, and he feels Laurence Gibson has the physical tools, but isn’t quite ready for primetime yet.

Newsome’s main concerns are the younger players at the tackle spots – Jake Goins, Nick Acree and Mark Shuman.

“They’re still a work in progress,” Newsome said. “They need some work out there [at tackle]. We need them to continue to improve. I think they’ll work at it, but they’ve got to show more improvement.”

To add depth at tackle, Newsome plans on keeping Via, who sat out the spring while recovering from ACL surgery, at the spot. Via has played every position on the offensive line, which makes him valuable, but Newsome likes the idea of having three starting caliber tackles in Becton, Painter and Via.

“We’ll see where that goes,” Newsome said when asked if he planned on rotating those guys. “As of right now, the plan is to keep Via at tackle.”


Left tackles

54 Nick Becton (6-6, 328, r-Sr.)
69 Mark Shuman (6-7, 322, r-Soph.)
52 Nick Acree (6-5, 299, r-Soph.)

Left guards

76 David Wang (6-1, 286, r-Jr.)
64 Matt Arkema (6-3, 285, r-Soph.)


74 Andrew Miller (6-4, 300, r-Jr.)
79 Caleb Farris (6-3, 310, Soph.)

Right guards

55 Brent Benedict (6-5, 311, r-Soph.)
63 Laurence Gibson (6-6, 312, r-Soph.)

Right tackles

71 Vinston Painter (6-6, 304, r-Sr.)
70 Jake Goins (6-5, 291, r-Fr.)