Leading up to last Saturday’s season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, there were huge concerns with the number of young players that would be entering the game for the Hokies.
The Hokies didn’t get off to the start they would have liked, but some positives came out of the 35-10 defeat. One of those was that the offensive line surprisingly played well together as a whole.
New — or just about new in the case of Laurence Gibson — were the Hokies tackles. Jonathan McLaughlin and Gibson each made their first career start against the Tide.
“Those guys up front did a great job the entire night. They gave me time to throw. They blocked it up in the run game,“ quarterback Logan Thomas said.
Despite the praise from the leader of his team, Gibson was unimpressed with his own execution throughout the game.
“Honestly, I was a little disappointed in how I played,” Gibson said. “I got into survival mode and didn’t play with good technique and fundamentals. I’m working on playing how I practice.”
Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes didn’t know what to expect from his freshman, but he agreed that they had their ups and downs.
“I don’t think (Laurence) played as well as he could have, because, you know, maybe first game jitters for him,” Grimes said. “He’s a guy that’s been around for a while but hasn’t played a lot of football.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler agreed; he sees an optimistic future.
“As a coach you’re always looking at the negative, and if you step back and look at the positive that offensive line, the first five, they’re going to gel and be a pretty good unit,” Loeffler said.
Besides the two first-time players, the Hokies line featured three veteran players, right guard Caleb Farris, center David Wang and left guard Andrew Miller. As a redshirt senior and one of the team’s four permanent captains for the 2013 season, Miller was enthused with his line’s performance.
“I was very impressed. Jonathan stepped up, David stayed healthy,” Miller said. “I’m very proud of Caleb Farris and Laurence, there weren’t that many mistakes, but there were quite a few that we’re going to have to check out the film and adjust.”
The Hokies protected their quarterback well, as the Crimson Tide rarely broke through the line and only sacked Thomas once during the game.
“I thought we hung in there in pass protection,” said head coach Frank Beamer. “(Alabama was) bringing a lot of stuff. When they bring it, it’s good people coming at you. I thought we hung in there.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban, known for his desire for perfection, noted the Hokies gave his defensive line a run for their money.
“(The Hokies offensive line) moved on us up front. We whiffed a few times because they have good quickness,” Saban said. “They outplayed us up front, if you want to know the truth.”
Despite a promising performance by a new offensive line, there is always more to work on and build on.
“I would say that my level of expectation is higher because it’s our second game,” Grimes said. “And we should have a lot of improvement from the first game to the second game.”