Brad Cornelsen Says RG is “Wide Open”, Tyrell Smith Emerging at RT

Fall camp kicks off tomorrow for Virginia Tech with the Hokies having their first press conference of the “fall” ahead of tomorrow’s first day of practice. While the Hokies’ defense is set at all but one position, there are plenty of competitions for starting spots on the offensive side of the ball.

Two of those spots are along the right side of the offensive line as the Hokies are replacing Augie Conte and Jonathan McLaughlin at RG and RT. At one spot, the Hokies have a replacement emerging while the other spot is “wide open” with a few guys in play.

Offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen said that right guard is “wide open” for competition while Tyrell Smith received plenty of praise as he enters the fall as the likely starting right tackle. Smith started to establish himself at right tackle this past spring with the New Jersey native receiving plenty of praise from Cornelsen and Justin Fuente this spring.

Smith has worked all over the offensive line after starting his career as the backup center, but Smith has finally found a home along Virginia Tech’s offensive line at right tackle. Smith may be a little shorter than you would like at an offensive tackle spot being only 6’3”, but that hasn’t stopped him from claiming control of the competition at right tackle.

Smith also gained lots of experience playing in all 14 games last season after redshirting in 2015. Having a younger guy like Smith step up in his third year at Virginia Tech has to be encouraging for the future of an offensive line that may be replacing three starters after this season with Wyatt Teller and Eric Gallo being seniors along with two of the three competitors (Kyle Chung, Parker Osterloh) for the starting right guard spot.

Meanwhile, right guard is “wide open” according to Cornelsen, an assessment that we agreed with when taking a look at the three-man competition at right guard last week. Despite saying that right guard was wide open, Cornelsen also appears to have some confidence that the Hokies will have a quality answer at right guard this fall.

Braxton Pfaff and Kyle Chung were the two main guys working at right guard this past spring with there not being much of a difference between the two. Those two enter the fall as the two frontrunners, but Parker Osterloh should also be involved in the competition now that he is healthy after missing the spring due to injury.

With Osterloh and Chung both being seniors, it’s clear that Pfaff is the future at right guard in 2018, but don’t expect the Hokies to go with Pfaff simply because he has the potential to be a two-year starter for the Hokies. Pfaff also worked as the backup right guard last season behind Wyatt Teller and that familiarity with right guard should help him.

Both Chung and Osterloh do bring more experience into this competition with Chung having started in 3 games in his career and playing in 6 last season at both guard and center while Osterloh has worked at guard and tackle, and has played in 21 games over the past two seasons. Chung pushed Eric Gallo at center last fall, but what makes Chung a serious contender is that it was his snapping, not his blocking, that prevented him from surpassing Gallo for more than 2 starts.

If Osterloh was healthy this spring, it’s likely that Osterloh would have competed with Tyrell Smith for the right tackle job given how Osterloh was the backup RT in 2016 and has above-average size for a right tackle at 6’8” and 325 pounds. If Osterloh can’t win the starting right tackle job, you can expect that he’ll be the top backup at offensive tackle unless he can find a way to push Smith for a job that seems to be just about locked up.

While much of the attention will be on the competitions at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball; the competition at right guard is the most unpredictable and one that could go throughout the first month of the season if not longer.

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