The focus of Tuesday’s press conference was on the quarterbacks with Justin Fuente and all three quarterbacks talking to the media about how each of them was doing this spring and to break the latest news on the quarterback competition which was that there’s no news and it’s still a three-man battle.
However, that wasn’t the only interesting thing to come out of Tuesday’s press conference as Justin Fuente also provided some insight into who will be replacing long-time starters Jonathan McLaughlin and Augie Conte on the right side of the Hokies’ offensive line.
“Tyrell [Smith] is working at right tackle. We’ve moved those guys around a little bit at right guard. [Braxton] Pfaff has worked in there. [Kyle] Chung has worked in there. There may be another guy or two, but those are two main guys that have worked in at right guard.”
Fuente said on Tuesday that Tyrell Smith has earned the top spot on the depth chart at right tackle while redshirt senior Kyle Chung and redshirt junior Braxton Pfaff are competing for the starting right guard job. Smith has received plenty of praise this spring from the staff so it isn’t a surprise to see him have a tight grip on the right tackle job while Chung and Pfaff have been two of the Hokies’ top backup linemen and while Pfaff was proclaimed as the leader at the beginning of the spring, seeing Chung get involved here isn’t a major surprise.
Smith has been all over the offensive line after starting out at center and having a bad Spring Game in which he struggled immensely snapping the ball, leading Smith moving from center to elsewhere on the offensive line. The move proved to be a great one for Smith who emerged as one of the top backup offensive linemen last year for the Hokies with the versatility to play guard or tackle whenever someone needed rest.
Smith has continued his rapid development and staked his claim to the right tackle job, making a permanent move to the right side of the offensive line to the left for the first time in his career. With Smith having seemed to locked down the starting right tackle job, he’ll should get a high volume of reps there, helping him adjust to being on the right side of the offensive line while getting to focus on one position instead of having to work at guard and tackle on both sides of the line However, that experience could prove valuable for the Hokies in the long-term if injuries become an issue on the offensive line.
Meanwhile at right guard, the Hokies have a battle on their hands between two veteran backups in Kyle Chung and Braxton Pfaff with Chung seeming to make a shift from working at center to guard while Pfaff looks to take Augie Conte’s starting spot after backing Conte up last season.
Chung will undoubtedly have a regular role on next year’s offensive line after getting a couple starts at center this past season and having the versatility to play at guard or center. Chung has forced his way into the battle at right guard and is a serious threat to earn the starting job despite not being the guy that was expected to early on. However, you have to wonder if Chung will be able to focus primarily on right guard or with him being VT’s second best center, will he be continuing to get a good amount of reps at center?
Meanwhile, Pfaff took some time to start climbing the Hokies’ depth chart but the former four-star guard now has a great chance at starting at right guard after being praised before spring practice started and being the backup for Augie Conte at right guard last season. Pfaff now has his first chance at earning a starting job since arriving in Blacksburg but after Pfaff seemed position well, it’s interesting to see that he hasn’t locked the job down like Smith has though having a senior looking to become a full-time starter for his final season pushing you in Chung definitely makes it more challenging compared to Smith who doesn’t really have any other healthy competition there to push him this spring.
The battle between Braxton Pfaff and Kyle Chung is likely to be one that goes deep into fall camp with both guys being veterans looking for their first chance to be full-time starters in Blacksburg. Given how Pfaff was named a fair amount at the beginning of the spring, Pfaff definitely seems to be the favorite but Chung has made this position battle quite competitive with it being possible that it could continue well into the season.
Meanwhile, Tyrell Smith has made a rapid rise up the depth chart over the past year claiming a role as a swing offensive lineman last season before seizing the top spot at right tackle and locking it down this spring. Smith has a bright future in Blacksburg and has the potential to be a three-year starter for the Hokies as he makes his rise to the top of the RT depth chart as a redshirt sophomore.