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Two names to watch as Virginia football seeks offensive line transfers

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Coaches hitting the transfer market in search of talent in the trenches

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Anae’s comment that “you’re never gonna find a great quarterback on a bad team” drew plenty of heat from folks who read it as an indictment of Virginia’s quarterback play in 2016. But if it meant UVA needs to beef up the talent around the QB position, then the Hoos seem to be turning those words into action.

Offensive line coach Garrett “2J” Tujague and director of player personnel Justin Anderson started following two big names that should be on the transfer market this winter: Ohio State tackle Evan Lisle, and Notre Dame guard John Montelus.

(Lisle is also being followed by Bronco Mendenhall and the official recruiting Twitter account.)

John Montelus

Montelus officially announced his decision to transfer in an Instagram post in late November. He should earn his degree from Notre Dame this offseason and would be eligible immediately in 2017.

After not seeing the field his freshman year, Montelus has played in six games over the last three years. In 2016, he played 18 snaps against Nevada as part of a wholesale line substitution once the Irish had the game well in hand. His only other appearance this year was two snaps against Army. The Notre Dame roster lists Montelus as a defensive lineman after he prepped for the 2015 Fiesta Bowl on defense, but he came to South Bend as an offensive lineman and all of his game participation has been on the offensive side of the ball.

A four-star recruit and Army All-American from Everett, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston), Montelus was widely recruited coming out of high school. Virginia extended an offer under Mike London, as did heavy hitters the likes of Florida, LSU, Miami, and Michigan.

The only good film on Montelus is from his senior season at Everett, so it has to be taken with a grain of salt. His technique is generally good, but he’s inconsistent: his hip bend disappears on some set-ups for pass protection, and he doesn’t always finish plays. He’s obviously very big and very strong, but sometimes relies too much on being just plain bigger than the guys across the ball.

Evan Lisle

Lisle is likewise on track to earn his degree in the offseason, and is expected to be headed out of Columbus. He spent the 2016 season as the backup to Jamarco Jones, but played in every game on special teams. (You can see him on field goal blocking in the clip below: #75, just to the right of the snapper.)

Lisle played much the same role in 2015, appearing in every game for Ohio State as a special teams player.

Like Montelus, Lisle was rated four stars and was honored as an Army All-American. Virginia didn’t get in the mix the first time around but Lisle held offers from most of the Big Ten, as well as Alabama, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma.

Lisle’s tape is more impressive than Montelus’s above. Despite being 6’5, Lisle manages to get his pad level underneath even smaller defenders. His feet never stop moving when he engages in the run game—combined with his size and strength advantage, that leads to damn near comical results on some of the plays. He occasionally absorbs defenders in pass protection instead of holding them at arm’s length, but that’s an easy thing to coach out of a guy at the college level. If Lisle has kept the athleticism shown here—when he was in the 260-pound range—as he’s gotten up to around 300, he could make for a very nice addition along the line for UVA.

Bottom Line

Both Lisle and Montelus were extraordinary prep players. They both went to elite programs stocked with many other extraordinary prep players. The fact that they didn’t play much at their respective institutions is probably more a reflection on each institution than a reflection on either player.

Offensive line recruiting is progressing in earnest on the high school front. The coaches were in-house with Highland Springs standout Mekhi Becton this week, and UVA is in the final three for Southampton’s Tyran Hunt. Having guys like Lisle or Montelus (or, dare to dream, both) would give Virginia an immediate boost in experience, talent, and depth while Becton, Hunt, and their cohort develop.