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Streaking the Lawn Roundtable: UVA's Offensive Line

A post not about quarterbacks (mostly)

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

QB controversies tend to envelop all football discussion; for UVA fans, who have been mired in an ~8 year long QB controversy, this is exhausting. Going into the season, the Cavaliers' biggest question mark was in the trenches on the offensive line, and we wanted to check in on the unit.

In 2011, when UVA went 8-5 and qualified for the Chick-Fil-A bowl, the line was a major strength, with the same 5 players starting in each game.  But last season, 8 different players started at least one game, and all indications were that this year's unit would be similarly shaky.  Is Virginia's offensive line capable of returning to that level of consistency? Here's what we've seen so far:

Matt Trogdon: Last year's line looked like a dumpster fire at times. No signs of that so far this year. Consistency and performance have both exceeded expectations, though it's admittedly a small sample size. Matteo started in place of Mooney against Richmond, but London said that was because of a disciplinary issue. Otherwise, the line was the same. At this point, they look a lot better in pass blocking than in run blocking, but they might be at a disadvantage in the run game because our offensive play-calling has been so predictable. The second unit gave up a sack on David Watford late against Richmond, but the first unit has kept Lambert and Johns clean so far. Louisville's defense will provide a good test.

Hopefully, the line will only get better from here. Sadiq Olanrewaju is apparently close to returning, which would give the Hoos another option at tackle.

Paul Wiley: One thing that I think has contributed to some success so far, especially for a young and inexperienced group, is some serious discipline. Early in the UCLA game, one of the linemen was called for a false start. He was replaced IMMEDIATELY and Coach Wachenheim was ... demonstrative on the sideline. During the radio pre-game show before Richmond, Wachenheim talked about that mindset and I liked everything I heard. Attention to detail is crucial for an offensive lineman. These collisions between 700 pounds of human being are decided on whether one guy is pushing from the correct sides of his feet or whether his thumbs are held at the correct angle. Winning those battles starts with mental discipline. We saw a lot of lapses in concentration the last few years from our linemen, so seeing the coaches focus there is an encouraging sign.

And I also love having a roundtable giving props to the TRUE skill position players.

Paul Guttman: The OL has done a good job so far. Not a great job, but a good job. They've allowed just the one sack (and honeslty, it was a coverage/Watford-has-no-pocket-presence-whatsoever sack, and not really on the OL). But that doesn't mean there hasn't been pressure. And the run blocking hasn't been great. Some of that, like Matt said, is the play-calling. I think Steve Fairchild is trying to get into the Guinness Book for calling the most shotgun inside hand-off over-guard runs ever. He might be there already. Those plays work better from under center when the RB can get a running start before he gets the ball. They are too slow; the QB catches the snap, hands off the RB and now, a good second after the snap, the RB starts moving forward. If the play was run under center, the RB starts moving forward at the snap, so he's already going forward when he gets ball. Plus, he gets the ball 2-3 yards behind the LOS as opposed to 4-5 yards behind. I don't understand why we're a shotgun team. I also don't understand why there isn't more (any?) misdirection from our offense. There's almost no play-action. There's no counter runs. There's no double moves. Richmond ran a number of plays with both Strauss and Rocco on the field. Why don't we do that with Lambert and Johns? Especially since Johns is clearly athletic enough to run a pass pattern, even if only as a decoy.

Oh, right this was supposed to be about the OL, not about Steve Fairchild's shortcomings. Sorry for the digression. The best thing about this OL is that they are young. They are only going to get better. The next two games will be good learning experiences for them, and then after that they have 2 easier matchups. That is basically a month to get up to speed before we get into the meat of the schedule. Duke, UNC, GT, those are the games that are going to determine our season. And by that point, we may get Jay Whitmire back as well. If there are no more OL injuries, and the same basic group of guys (adding Whitmire and removing, I assume, Ryan Doull) is still together, we'll go bowling.

Caroline Darney: I have been impressed with the OL so far as well. They have given the quarterbacks (whichever one) time to get plays off, and have been consistent. I agree that the holding accountable is huge, and for a young group to be minimizing penalties is key. I'd like to see some bigger holes for KP and the rushers to truck through, but I'd also like a million dollars. Tiki brings up an interesting point about the shotgun...

Also, YES TO BOTH JOHNS AND LAMBERT. That's the trickeration type stuff I want to see. Have some fun with it.

Brian Schwartz: Though UCLA still may be a paper tiger, going through that game without a sack was impressive in the unit's first start (and a credit to the QBs too). Still, their youth has shown in the reliance of the short passing game (though it's tough to figure out how much, if at all, to blame the o-line for that), and the iffy start by the running backs (again...this is affected by play-calling).

Suffice it to say that, for all the preseason panic, early returns are good. The offensive line clearly won't be a relative strength, but if it's not a glaring issue, they've done their job.

What say you guys? Like what you've seen so far?