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Countdown to Virginia Football: #71 Jack McDonald

We’re continuing our efforts to catch up on the guys we missed during our countdown. Here is #71 Jack McDonald, a likely starter on the OL at one of the OG positions.

Virginia Media Relations

Position: OG
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 290
Year: RS Junior
Hometown: Quincy, MA
Twitter: @Jack_McDonald73

The Hoos have 3 returning starters on the OL. Those 3 are the two OTs and Jackson Matteo in the middle. But at guard, the Hoos will be breaking in two new starters. We’re pretty sure one of those guys will be Jack McDonald, but it’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll be on the left side or the right side. And the other OG spot is still up in the air (senior Sean Karl seems to have the inside track).Over the past two years, McDonald has seen time at both OG spots, including 2 starts last year. He’s been on the field for roughly 300 total offensive plays, plus some special teams. So, he’s not exactly new. But he’s still far less experienced than the returning starters.

McDonald has worked hard in the weight room to add upper body strength and bulk to his frame. When he arrived on grounds, he was 275 pounds, which is a bit slight for an interior OL. He would’ve struggled to contain bigger DTs at the lower weight. With his added strength, he’s now much more capable of handling those big uglies. That said, strength and bulk is never going to be McDonald’s forte. He’s a bit more of a finesse lineman. He’s got very good mobility for an interior lineman, he’s agile and quick on his feet. He has good balance. He’s strong when getting out as a pulling lineman. He can get to the second level. He also has long arms, which combine with his quick feet to make him excellent pass blocker. He’s never going to be a mauler, he’s not a guy to run over in short yardage. But, considering the new spread offense, he could be a perfect OL for the Hoos. He’s great in space and he’s strong on the move. Those are key attributes for linemen in the up-tempo spread offense favored by the new staff.

Watching his senior year highlight reel on Hudl isn’t very telling. The plays shown generally show him run blocking straight ahead. Perhaps in Massachusetts HS football, he was able to do that. But that’s not him now in FBS football. At about the 2:30 mark, there’s a play that shows him as a pulling lineman. He starts out on the right side and moves across the line of scrimmage to the left and makes a block on the edge defender, allowing his RB to get the edge and make a big play. This isn’t as easy a play as it seems, because he needs to ensure he gets across the face of the QB before the ball is handed off, or else he’ll be in the RBs way. That’s the Jack McDonald the Hoos are going to need this year.