The offensive line is expected to be one of Virginia’s strengths this season, and for good reason. Four of five starters return from a unit that demonstrated considerable improvement as the season progressed last year.
But depth along the offensive line can prove to be crucial to an offense’s success. Injuries don’t call in advance to let a player – or a team – know they’re coming, so it helps to have capable pieces in place that can be inserted at a moment’s notice.
With that in mind, Cavaliers Coach Mike London went through the team’s top reserves at each offensive line position Monday. He said redshirt sophomore Sean Cascarano is the primary back-up at both offensive tackle spots, while redshirt freshman Conner Davis and redshirt junior guard Matt Mihalik are the primary back-ups at guard. Redshirt freshman Cody Wallace is the primary back-up at center.
But the back-up center role seems the most undecided. London said even though redshirt sophomore Luke Bowanko is slated to be the team’s starting right guard, the player could move to center should fifth-year senior Anthony Mihota (the starter) be removed from the game for any reason. If the coaches took that route, London said, then Mihalik would step into Bowanko’s spot at right guard.
London also made specific mention of true freshman offensive tackle Kelby Johnson (DeMatha).
Johnson – who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds – “may have a chance to play this year in a back-up role … because he’s big and he’s athletic,” London said. True freshman “Jay Whitmire has done a lot of good things. He may or may not be ready. But I think the guy that’s closest to playing on the offensive line is Kelby.”
Whitmire, who played offensive tackle at T.C. Williams High, is listed on the Virginia training camp roster as an offensive guard. He stands 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, according to the training camp roster.