In the past, depth has been a question at center especially as Virginia Tech had multiple players who were better off away from being VT’s snapper including Kyle Chung and Tyrell Smith. Questions about depth and whether there would be competition with Zachariah Hoyt at the center spot are among the top intriguing stories entering this spring on the offensive side of the ball.
Unlike past seasons, the Hokies appear to have plenty of center depth along with a competition brewing for the summer between Hoyt and incoming transfer Brock Hoffman according to offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen.
“We’ve got a couple of young guys behind him. We’ve got a transfer (Brock Hoffman) coming in that’s played it and will have a chance to find a role in there somewhere, whether it’s at center competing with Hoyt or guard. He’s played both so we feel good about that and the depth. Hoyt will be the one with the most experience coming back that gives us a guy that knows what’s going on and has done it and can continue to get better, too,” Cornelsen said.
Hoyt had an up-and-down first season as the Hokies’ starting center being the regular center but being rotated out at times during his snapping struggles. Many of Hoyt’s snapping struggles were early in the season with the Salem, VA native finding some rhythm later in the season and not drawing attention to his snapping, arguably the best thing a center can do.
However, the Hokies are poised for a competition at center after adding Coastal Carolina transfer Brock Hoffman as long as his waiver is approved.
Hoffman provides plenty of versatility having started at center as a freshman and guard as a sophomore, giving VT the type of interior offensive line versatility that Vance Vice highly values. For now, it appears that Hoffman will get his first chance at center, something that makes sense given the fact that it is easier to move from center to guard than guard to center.
The challenge for Hoffman will be the fact that he won’t be arriving at Virginia,Tech till the summer, giving Hoyt a head start on retaining his starting job.
Part of the issue the Hokies have had in the past is that they’ve had arguably two centers at most. In 2019, the Hokies will have more centers than just Hoyt and Hoffman via a pair of young centers for the future in John Harris and Will Pritchard.
“John Harris has been a guy that’s done a little bit of both. Will Pritchard is a guy that we signed as a center that is going to come in as a center. With (Brock) Hoffman coming in, he’s played it. Those will be a few off the top of my head who will definitely be in the mix,” Cornselsen said on the additional competition and depth at center.
John Harris has been one of the more intriguing offensive linemen as another versatile interior offensive lineman who made a strong impression during his first season on campus. Harris did make a pair of appearances against William & Mary and Notre Dame last season, taking advantage of the new redshirt rule that allows a player to play four or fewer games and still redshirt.
While Harris won’t receive the same talk as Hoyt or Hoffman, the Georgia native shouldn’t be discounted as a serious contender and a likely starter of the future whether that is at guard or center. Harris also has a chance to break through the two-deep this season depending on how the center competition shakes out.
Will Pritchard is almost certain to redshirt, but having Pritchard come in a year after Harris is a great sign that Virginia Tech is starting to build some depth at center through traditional means, something that had been an issue during the first couple years of the Justin Fuente era. That depth should prove valuable, giving the Hokies’ more depth in case of injuries while also putting VT in a position to be able to not look on the transfer market to find a reliable snapper.
Zachariah Hoyt remains the frontrunner for the center starting job after gaining a full season of experience, but Brock Hoffman and John Harris both have their eyes on claiming the starting center job this spring.