By Anna Arnau
Football head coach Paul Johnson has a knack for coaching specifically the rushing game, and Tech has come to be known nationally as a team with a rush-dominated approach. Last season, the Jackets lead the ACC in total offense, rushing offense, scoring offense, third-down conversion percentage and fewest sacks allowed. None of these impressive achievements would be possible without a strong offensive line.
The offensive line is crucial for any success in football due to their monumental role in protecting the quarterback and creating holes for runners, among other things. With such success last season, it’s hard to expect much more from the boys that as a group go by “the goon squad”. But with four returning starters, including redshirt juniors Jay Finch, Will Jackson and Ray Beno and senior leader Omoregie Uzzi, the offensive line is only looking to improve.
The linemen know that it is a major strength to have so much experience on the line together, and they hope that it will make a big impact on the season. Beno believes that his experiences with Jackson and the cohesiveness of the team will make for better play on the field.
“I know I can trust Will. Usually it’s me coming off the blocks and not him, and I know once I secure that guy, Will’s got him. That’s huge for us,” said Beno.
The linemen are also working hard with the new Director of Player Development, Coach John Sisk. Jackson tells of team-wide improvements in the weight room and places much of the blame on the methods of the new coach.
“Everyone’s been working hard since I’ve been here, but the mindset is just so different because [Sisk] ties everything back to football. We’re not lifting weights just to lift weights; we’re lifting for 9/3. He’s tying everything back into to making us better football players. Just keeping that in our minds is helping us a lot,” Jackson said.
Tech football players are completely focused on the first game of the season and are training hard in preparation, and Uzzi is no different.
“We’ve been breaking it down on 9/3. That’s the first game of the season, that’s when we’re going to make our debut. Often times in the offseason it gets dull and mundane, but [Sisk] has done a good job at… making sure that we know we’re doing this for a reason…Virginia Tech is probably going to be one of our most important games. It’s a division game, it’s going to affect our whole season, so that’s just added motivation,” said Uzzi.
With the combined experience and offseason preparation of the Tech offensive linemen, it’s sure to be another impactful season for the goon squad.
By Anna Arnau