During training camp, Virginia Tech offensive line coach Curt Newsome told reporters that even though senior Andrew Lanier remained his starting left tackle, he planned to alternate Lanier every series with junior Nick Becton this season.
Through the Hokies’ first three games of the year, their repetitions were relatively equal. But at Marshall on Saturday, Becton got 44 snaps while Lanier was on the field for just 29 plays.
Lanier, who suffered a sprained MCL in Virginia Tech’s victory over Arkansas State two weeks ago, said he didn’t think the lack of playing time had anything to do with his knee, something Newsome confirmed this week.
“They have completely rotated every series, and so that’s where the reps came from,” Newsome said. “Nick was in on some longer drives, and he’s really playing well right now. I thought we played against an extremely good pass rusher last week, a guy who’s gonna get drafted [Marshall’s Vinny Curry], and I thought he handled it well.”
Added Lanier: “We switch every series, and so I guess if you just look at it, when Becton was in, I guess they were having more plays, they were driving down the field. I guess you could say they were doing a little better, so that just in turn gave him more plays and more snaps.”
Becton is a prototypical left tackle and the heaviest player on the team at 326 pounds. He was supposed to be the starter a year ago, but was slow to recover from a turf toe injury he suffered during training camp.
Lanier, a converted tight end, took over the starting left tackle role and performed increasingly well as the season wore on. But he was pushed around at times and showed up to training camp this year weighing 306 pounds, about 24 pounds heavier than 2010.
Saturday’s game against Marshall was the first time both received a winning grade from the coaching staff, which means they graded out at better than 80 percent. Now, though, with the competition ramping up — both Newsome and Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney say the strength of the Tigers’ defense is their linemen — it will be interesting to see whether Newsome sticks to his rotation if either struggles.
“We better buckle up because there’s no question they’re one of the top fronts in our league,” Newsome said. “You’re opening league play, and it’s like you’re starting your season over because of our schedule and how it has worked out.”
I’ll have much more in Saturday’s paper on Virginia Tech’s veteran offensive line, which has been charged with keeping everyone loose on this year’s team.