Hokies Straighten Out Line, Which Leads to Big Things
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 11 -- Running back Darren Evans often returned to Virginia Tech's huddle out of breath during his school-record 253-yard performance against Maryland last week, but Hokies guard Nick Marshman noticed signals of appreciation for the offensive linemen despite Evans's winded state.
"You could clearly see it on his face," Marshman said. "When the running back's running like that and can't really breathe, you want to let him catch his breath. But we'd come to the sideline, he'd come down there and say: 'Good job, guys. Keep it up.' And when you hear that from your back, knowing that he's getting what he needs, that just builds with us."
Evans had good reason to thank his linemen, who played their best game of the season. With the Hokies accumulating a season-high 400 yards of total offense against Maryland, the offense appeared rejuvenated.
Heading into Thursday's game at Miami, the health of the Hokies' quarterbacks and the expectations following Evans's performance have overshadowed an offensive line that often has been an afterthought. Yet Coach Frank Beamer made it clear that any improvement of the offense starts with a group of linemen who bore considerable criticism when the offense struggled.
Playing against a Maryland defensive line whose physicality drew Beamer's praise, the offensive line had few problems creating lanes for Evans. On the game's final drive, Marshman estimated the Hokies ran the same running play on four to six consecutive plays without changing the side or the blocking scheme.
Beamer also made sure to credit tight ends Greg Boone, Andre Smith and Chris Drager, the fullbacks and even the wide receivers for keeping the holes open on Evans's long runs. Seven of Evans's runs stretched for more than 10 yards, and four were for more than 20 yards.
"I think when you see a performance like that, you got to put all those guys together," Beamer said. "One of them breaks down, the play breaks down."
Throughout the season, Beamer often has become exasperated while describing how close the Hokies have been to busting out for long runs. Many times, only one more block was needed.
"It was something we focused all week in practice, staying on blocks all the way through the whistle, not just letting somebody slide off or whatever," Marshman said. "We get 10 yards, but what if we stayed on our block? We could have gotten another 10. It's something they stressed to us."
Miami is ranked fourth in the ACC and 24th in the nation in rushing defense, and has allowed a 100-yard runner only twice this season, so determining whether the offensive line's performance -- and by extension, Evans's record-setting evening -- was a sign of improvement or a one-week deviation might be tough.
"I was glad to see us be able to run the football," Beamer said, "and it'll be interesting to see if we can do it here Thursday night."
Grimm Is Doubly Cited
The coaching staff named linebacker Cody Grimm as both the defensive and special teams player of the week following Thursday's game.
"This doesn't often happen," Beamer said, a testament to Grimm's performance.
The son of former Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm finished with seven tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack.
"He had some big plays all the way around," Beamer said. "He has a knack for football. It makes sense to him. He's got a toughness. Football really makes sense to him." . . .
For the second consecutive week, Beamer remained guarded regarding the health of his quarterbacks. Beamer would only confirm that Tyrod Taylor has been practicing but is not yet as healthy as Sean Glennon. Both have suffered high-ankle sprains this season.
"We'll see when we warm up," Beamer said. "I think Sean, he's always been further along than Tyrod."