In last week's game versus the East Carolina Pirates, the Hokies offensive line continued to be inconsistent and struggled with the run game.
Both of Tech’s touchdown drives consisted of 11 plays for 70 yards in the first quarter and 10 plays for 75 yards, with multiple mistakes in between that kept the Hokies from staying consistent.
One notable switch for the Hokies was the fact that freshman Laurence Gibson lost his starting job to redshirt junior Brent Benedict, and the new line combination was surely part of the unit's initial struggles.
Benedict initially worked at guard for the Hokies, but when the coaching staff tried him out at tackle, they liked what they saw.
“He surprised me,” said offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. “He did a little bit better at tackle even than he had played at guard. I think he might be a little bit more natural of a tackle than a guard … He uses his hands better and he’s got really good strength but just seems to utilize his skills a little bit better when he’s playing a little bit more in space.”
Many thought Benedict would start on the line initially, but when Andrew Miller moved to guard and David Wang moved to center, he quickly found himself without a job. But that didn't stop him from working hard.
“He was a guy who didn’t quit working when he didn’t win a starting job initially,” Grimes said.
Benedict was forced to take reps at tackle when the presumptive starter at right tackle, Mark Shuman, suffered a major knee injury. The injury forced the former guard to try a position he hadn't played since high school. Benedict saw some playing time quickly in the game against Western Carolina.
His continual improvements prompted Grimes to insert him into the starting lineup, and though he's shown some flashes, he still has plenty of room for improvement.
“I’m making some adjustments and getting used to it,” Benedict said. “And that comes with time and reps in practice and in games.”
But the line's struggles aren't solely on Benedict's shoulders, however. This is still a new unit that is struggling to work together well.
“In the game I played, there were a lot of holes,” running back J.C. Coleman said. "They even got a lot of push against Alabama as well. I know it was kind of tough in the ECU game, but I know they're going to bounce back this week and have a better game."
It also didn't help that the Pirates were determined to stop the run by putting eight defenders in the box on many plays.
“They had a lot of people up around the line of scrimmage and they weren’t going to let us run," Beamer said. "They have good people over there, but we have to be good enough to do what we did and go throw the ball down the field when they’re playing you that tight."
The Hokies racked up a meager 53 rushing yards against ECU, and the longest run of the game came from Trey Edmunds for 13 yards.
Edmunds rushed for a total of 42 yards through the entire game.
“None of us are pleased with where we are running the football based on that game," Grimes said.
Despite attempts by the offense, they still have a lot of things to improve upon before playing Marshall at home this Saturday.
“It’s a tough place to play against a good football team and hang in there and not always play pretty. But, like I told you last week, maybe it’ll get more attractive as the year goes along. We’re not pretty yet,” Beamer said.