At the beginning of the season, Colt Pettit was one of the biggest surprises as a disappointing fall practice from Wyatt Teller allowed Colt Pettit to take the starting left guard job. Pettit held onto that job for a couple weeks but was not great at that spot with Teller taking the job full-time after a few weeks.
In recent weeks, the Hokies have also started using Kyle Chung and Braxton Pfaff more as their primary backup guards with Pettit’s role being reduced more and more. Then for the game against Notre Dame, the Hokies announced a position change that no one expected.
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@techlunchpaild) November 19, 2016
Virginia Tech decided to move former starting guard Colt Pettit to tight end in what was a very surprising move given the fact that Pettit was an offensive lineman in high school. However, Pettit was more of a pure blocking tight end and took on that role in an effective manner against a big, physical Notre Dame defensive line helping Virginia Tech establish a solid running game up the middle that opened up space on the edges for Jerod Evans to make plays through the air or with his legs on read options.
Now Pettit was not seen as a guy who would be used in the passing game with his snaps being limited due largely to how he was purely an additional blocker. Pettit’s role last week raises two questions as to whether Pettit will continue to play at tight end and whether Pettit can actually be effective at tight end?
The first question depends on how strategic the decision to move Pettit was. If the decision to move Pettit was purely because of how big Notre Dame’s defensive line was, then Pettit will be a backup guard again this week but if not, that leaves the door open for a longer term shift to that spot.
One big indication that Pettit’s move to tight end may only have been for the Notre Dame game is the fact that he is still listed as #58 and as a lineman on Virginia Tech’s roster on hokiesports.com. Also, the fact that Notre Dame was a unique matchup and that weather made the Hokies plan to rely on the running game more made having an additional blocker at tight end more useful than a traditional tight end.
There are a few issues with putting Pettit at tight end that makes a permanent there make no sense. First, Pettit has no experience at the spot and wouldn’t be seen as anything more than a blocker with defensive coordinators being more able to predict whether the Hokies are running the football or if they will leave a tight end back to block.
Secondly, Pettit is listed at almost 300 pounds and there’s no reason to think that he may not be a starting offensive guard again in the future for the Hokies or possibly even next season with Augie Conte graduating after this season. Third, Virginia Tech’s interior offensive line depth isn’t bad but taking away from that depth still doesn’t make sense with Chung potentially being able to push Eric Gallo at center still and limited guard options that have played outside of Teller, Pfaff, and Pettit.
If the Hokies do try to keep Pettit at tight end long term, they will have to find ways to prove that he is actually a threat to make plays in the passing game. Pettit may also struggle to get playing time when the Hokies actually want to have a tight end who could run even the most basic routes with Chris Cunningham actually being decently productive in the red zone this season with 3 receiving touchdowns.
Does the Colt Pettit to tight end move have a potential to work in the long run? Yes, it could but it just doesn’t seem to make much sense beyond the occasional change to adapt to a certain opponent as they did against Notre Dame given how Pettit has no experience at tight end and doesn’t really have the athleticism to play the position regularly unlike when the Hokies moved former quarterbacks like Bucky Hodges and Chris Durkin to tight end.
In the end, I don’t expect that we’ll see Colt Pettit stay at tight end with this being purely a strategic move by the Hokies on a day in which they knew conditions may make throwing the football more difficult, forcing them to game-plan around a run-first based attack against a big, physical Notre Dame defensive line. However, a permanent move for Pettit from offensive guard to tight end just doesn’t really make any sense and could end in the Ohio native leaving the program down the road to move back to guard elsewhere.
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