A pecking order is emerging for Virginia’s depth-plagued offensive line, according to reports this week. Offensive line coach Garrett Tujague spoke to reporters Monday, telling them he had “7 ½” players for a rotation, according to Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times. Tujague said he hopes to get to a rotation of 10, but the primary focus will be getting to 8 for the time being.
From what we’ve read, senior tackle Eric Smith and senior center Jackson Matteo are firmly entrenched in their starting positions. Senior guard Sean Karl and junior guard Jack McDonald also appear to have strong holds on starting spots. Junior Jack English and senior Mike Mooney are battling for the starting tackle spot opposite Smith. Whoever loses the starting job projects as the first tackle spot off the bench.
According to Doughty, Tujague spoke highly of Mooney, who missed the second half of 2015 after an injury at Pittsburgh.
“He’s done a really good job this season of taking care of his body,” Tujague said on the teleconference. “His stamina’s up and he’s nasty.”
The seventh spot currently belongs to Jake Fieler, a rising sophomore who has been practicing at all three positions. Tujague spoke highly of Fieler as well.
“I expect huge things out of him,” he said.
Right now, the ½ spot goes to rising sophomore guard Steven Moss. A 4-star recruit out of high school, Moss hasn’t seen action yet in college. Tujague said Moss has “done an amazing job of showing me that he’s ready” the last handful of days.
The emergence of Moss and Fieler is important for Virginia’s future depth. UVA graduates four seniors this year, and could have as many as four starting jobs open for next season. If Moss and Fieler continue to progress, they’ll be in line to assume those roles in 2017.
For Virginia to get to a 10-man rotation, Tujague will need to see contributions from either redshirt freshmen R.J. Proctor and Ryan Bischoff, or true freshmen Ben Knutson and Dillon Reinkensmeyer. Tujague had positive things to say about both the true freshmen. Proctor, meanwhile, received praise in the first edition of “The McCue Report,” a highlight segment produced by Virginia Sports TV, below.
Stay tuned to Streaking The Lawn as Virginia’s preseason depth chart continues to take shape.