Welcome back to our 2018 Football Season Preview. In this installment, we're tackling the offensive line! To view our preview schedule and read already-completed pieces, click here.
The Hoos lose three starters from last year's line: Jack English and the two grad transfers, John Montelus and Brandon Pertile. Sounds bad, but by my calculations, none of these three were anything above average ACC starters, with Montelus and Pertile both ringing the below average bell often enough to not really be missed. Replacement value could be an upgrade. We also lose Jack McDonald from the two-deep, and Steven Moss - a 4-star bust who never played. All things considered, we lost quantity, but not quality.
We return the core of the late London-era OL recruits: C/OG Jake Fieler, OG R.J. Proctor, C/OT Dillon Reinkensmeyer, OG Ben Knutson, and OT Ryan Bischoff. Along with those five, the quintet of 2017 recruits have been layered in: OT Chris Glaser, OT Ryan Nelson, C Tyler Fannin, OT Ryan Swoboda, and OT/OG Gerrik Vollmer. Walk-on OT/OG Ben Trent is still seeking a scholarship and some playing time. So it's an 11-man core returning for this season. All but Bischoff, Swoboda, and Vollmer could factor into the 2018 two-deep.
Player Name - Class - HT WT
Jake Fieler - Senior - 6-6, 315 -- A solid size/strength/experience battler on the interior o-line.
R.J. Proctor - Junior - 6-4, 335 -- The light is now on, and shining bright. I think he locks down the right guard spot for 2018 and 2019.
Ryan Bischoff - Junior - 6-4, 305 -- Just a guy. Not likely to be on the two-deep, not likely to be invited back for his 5th season.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer - Sophomore - 6-4, 300 -- I tend to overhype him, but I really do think he's the cornerstone in the foundation of a successfully rebuilt UVA o-line... whenever it becomes successfully rebuilt.
Chris Glaser - Sophomore - 6-3, 300 -- Showed a lot of moxie when he was thrust into playing time as a true freshman. Now he just needs to get bigger, get stronger, and finish blocks.
Ben Knutson - Sophomore - 6-9, 310 -- I've always worried about his height and his high-slung build at a position where gaining leverage over an opponent is key. It takes a certain type of crazed aggression to make it work at that height, and Knutson hasn't quite honed his "nasty" yet.
Ben Trent - Sophomore - 6-5, 320 -- He's a grinder, and ever line needs grinders. Maybe Trent never plays, but what he does is push the guys in front of him. That's invaluable.
Ryan Nelson - RS Freshman - 6-4, 310 -- He's everything you want in a left tackle prospect. Now he just needs to develop his skills and upgade his level of grit.
Tyler Fannin - RS Freshman - 6-3, 305 -- A technician whose technique is not... quite... all... the... way... there... ... ... ...yet.
Ryan Swoboda - RS Freshman - 6-10, 290 -- Skyscraper has to gain lower body strength, a fat ass, and a strong back in order to bend the way he'll need to. It's okay that he's raw right now. His next-level footwork leads to a very favorable projection.
Gerrik Vollmer - RS Freshman - 6-3, 290 -- I haven't seen enough to be able to cobble together much of an opinion on Vollmer. I like his size. We just have to wait and see how he develops.
The biggest, most important addition to the 2018 o-line is Rutgers transfer Marcus Applefield, a 6-5, 300-pound behemoth who is the veteran of 27 games in the rugged Big Ten. Applefield arrives at UVA as an instant one-year starter at guard or (more likely, given our roster) right tackle, and represents a dramatic upgrade over last year's starting right tackle. Menawhile, another recruiting class fat with o-line bodies arrives this summer. None of Bobby Haskins, Martin Weisz, Joseph Bissinger, Micah Mariteragi, or Derek Devine are expected to do anything other than redshirt this season. All five need time to soak and develop, and if any play in 2018 it means that disaster has occured at this poisition group. That's a big upgrade from last season, when true freshman Chis Glaser HAD to play.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer -- He'll be a stalwart at left tackle and/or center, continuing to provide the cornerstone around which a quality offensive line may be built.
R.J. Proctor -- Man, I never thought I'd being saying this, based on everything I've seen to this point, but it looks like the light has really come on for Proctor. He's finally "got it" and is out for blood this season, trying to win the RG spot outright, trying to solidify this line, and trying to make up for lost time. I'm really excited to see him in action against Richmond, to get a look at what the new and improved RJP has to offer.
A Stab at the UofR Game Depth Chart
It's an upgraded offensive line. 2018 Fieler, Reinkensmeyer, and Glaser should be better than 2017 Fieler, Reinkensmeyer, and Glaser, just based on getting older, wiser, and more physically developed. Applefield is a big upgrade over Pertile. Proctor, by all accounts, is a massively improved version of himself. Montelus was not a good starter... so while the left guard position likely remains our biggest question mark, I have confidence that whoever wins that job will be an upgrade. So, yeah, it's an upgraded offensive line. But please understand, "upgraded" does not necessarily mean "good." I think our line caps out as an average ACC-level unit. The reality is that it's still a slightly below-average line. Once Reinkensmeyer and Glaser are upperclassmen and we're no longer relying upon one-year rentals in the form of grad transfers, we can begin to talk about having an above-average line. We're not there yet. Still, I expect this unit to help pave the way for a GREATLY improved rushing attack in 2018. A mobile quarterback makes any offensive line look better!