Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Offensive Line Preview: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech

Blake DeChristopher (left) is a four-year starter for Virginia Tech
and head coach Frank Beamer
(image via Washington Post)

Starters: Redshirt sophomore left tackle Taylor Lewan (6'8", 302) has started every game this season and was voted Second Team All-Big Ten by conference coaches.  Redshirt junior left guard Ricky Barnum (6'3", 292 lbs.) has started three games this season and remained #1 on the depth chart all season despite missing all or part of the other nine contests.  Fifth year senior center David Molk (6'2", 286 lbs.) received every conceivable award for a center, including First Team All-America status and the Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center.  Redshirt junior right guard Patrick Omameh (6'4", 299 lbs.) has started every game this season.  Fifth year senior right tackle Mark Huyge (6'6", 302 lbs.) has started every game this year.
Backups: The only backup to see significant playing time this season was redshirt sophomore tackle/guard Michael Schofield (6'7", 299 lbs.), who actually started more games (9) than Barnum at left guard.  Schofield is a tackle by trade, but with Barnum consistently hurt, the coaches plugged him in and he's essentially a sixth starter.  The next two backups appear to be redshirt junior tackle Elliott Mealer (6'5", 310 lbs.) and redshirt junior center Rocko Khoury (6'4", 287 lbs.), who have played in seven and four games, respectively.

Starters: Fifth year senior left tackle Andrew Lanier (6'5", 306 lbs.) is a two-year starter at left tackle.  Redshirt junior left guard Greg Nosal (6'6", 297 lbs.) has started every game for the past two seasons and was Honorable Mention All-ACC in 2011.  Redshirt sophomore center Andrew Miller (6'4", 290 lbs.) has started every game this season.  Fifth year senior right guard Jaymes Brooks (6'2", 307) is a three-year starter and two-time Second Team All-ACC selection.  Fifth year senior right tackle Blake DeChristopher (6'5", 311 lbs.) is a four-year starter with 50 career starts, was a First Team All-ACC selection and earned the ACC's top award for offensive linemen.
Backups: True freshman Caleb Farris (6'3", 309 lbs.) has played in four games as a backup offensive center.  Redshirt junior Michael Via (6'7", 292 lbs.) has played in eleven games as a backup guard and center this year, and also has past experience at tackle.  Redshirt junior Nick Becton (6'6", 326 lbs.) has played in every game at offensive tackle.  Via and Becton appear to be in line for starting jobs next season.

Michigan's starters average a shade under 6'4" and about 294 lbs.  Virginia Tech's starters are a shade under 6'4" and about 302 lbs.  In addition to size, the Hokies also have a slight advantage in experience, with an average experience level of 4.4 years; Michigan's starters average 4.2 with Barnum counted as the starter and 4.0 if Schofield earns the nod.  It's a slight advantage, but an advantage nonetheless.  Virginia Tech's linemen have 158 starts total, or 31.6 on average.  Michigan's linemen have 123 starts among them, or 24.6 on average.  That means the average Hokie lineman has started for half a season longer than Michigan's, and if you look at the following list, the only position Michigan has an experience advantage over VT is at center, where Molk's 41 starts and Rimington Trophy hold an obvious edge over redshirt sophomore Miller:

Lewan: 21 starts
Barnum: 3 starts
Molk: 41 starts
Omameh: 28 starts
Huyge: 28 starts

Lanier: 27 starts
Nosal: 28 starts
Miller: 13 starts
Brooks: 40 starts
DeChristopher: 50 starts

Michigan might have more talent due to playing in the Big Ten, but experience is a key component in offensive line development, so . . .

Advantage: Virginia Tech


  1. We shall see... Michigan O line is the main reason for Toussaint and Denard's success. As a Hokie fan, I hope you are right. Out LT position has been the weakest link and hurt us during the Clemson game both times. Hopefully, we'll get it corrected.

  2. @ Anonymous 10:34 a.m.

    Actually, a lot of Toussaint's yards have come despite the offensive line. When he had good games against Illinois, Nebraska, and Illinois, Toussaint was creating a lot of those yards himself after making people miss in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. Michigan has a solid offensive line - especially at pass blocking - but they haven't been overwhelming in the run game.