Welcome back to our 2019 Football Season Preview. To view our preview table of contents and read already-completed pieces, click here or on the Series button above.
Virginia loses two and a half starters from last year's line, including the entire right side, in addition to a couple of unused reserves.
RJ Proctor - The interior mauler was a holdover from the London era who started six games last year at left guard. Though he gave us four good years and, when healthy, was a plus guard option for 2J, he ultimately decided to finish his career elsewhere. Proctor grad-transferred following the season to Oklahoma.
Jake Fieler - Originally a member of the 2014 class, Fieler provided a solid bridge into the Bronco era. He graduated this year after three years starting on the interior, including all 13 games last year at right guard.
Marcus Applefield - The former Rutgers standout grad-transferred to UVA last offseason and spent 2018 anchoring the right tackle position, starting all 13 games. He graduated after his one year of eligibility at UVA.
Ryan Bischoff - The former 2015 three-star recruit graduated from UVA this summer with a year of eligibilty remaining. He never made it into Tujague's two-deep.
Ben Knutson - Knutson had yet to make a dent in the two-deep in his three years in Charlottesville before graduating early this summer and moving on as a graduate transfer at Tulane.
Micah Mariteragi - The 2018 three-star recruit completed his redshirt year before leaving this summer for a planned LDS mission trip. He should be slated to rejoin the team in 2021.
The Hoos bring back six linemen with game experience, three of whom are former starters, along with another six rising sophomores and RS freshmen pushing for their first collegiate snaps.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer - RS Junior - 6'6" 300 lb - The longest-tenured O-lineman, Reinkensmeyer has played tackle, guard, and center over his career, but spent all of last year starting at the center spot. Best on the interior.
Chis Glaser - Junior - 6'3" 305 lb - Glaser came on late in his true freshman year to start at RT before moving to LG as a sophomore and picking up seven starts. He's expected to start again on the interior.
Ben Trent - RS Junior - 6'5" 305 lb - The walk-on has made himself a regular piece of the practice rotation, seeing time as a reserve and special teamer in nine games last season. Very athletic, he's expected to challenge for the two-deep on the interior and should continue to be a special teams staple.
Tyler Fannin - RS Sophomore - 6'3" 295 lb - Injuries kept him from breaking into the rotation as a RS freshman, when he was starting to impress as the Hoos' center of the future. He's healthy this year and pushing to start in the middle.
Ryan Nelson - RS Sophomore - 6'4" 315 lb - Last year's breakout youngster, he started all 13 games at LT as a redshirt freshman. Expect him to start again, though it's possible he may slide inside to LG depending how others perform.
Ryan Swoboda - RS Sophomore - 6'10" 300 lb - Showed up in a number of games last year as a reserve tackle and on special teams, the incredibly lengthy tackle may be turning a corner this season, pushing for his first start out of the gate.
Bobby Haskins - Sophomore - 6'7" 285 lb - Expected on the two-deep at tackle, maybe even earning a starting spot, Haskins appeared in all 13 games last year as a true freshman, serving as a reserve and special teamer. Possessing great length but still young and a little light, he's one to watch both for this year and the future.
Gerrik Vollmer - RS Sophomore - 6'5" 290 lb - Didn't get into any action as a RS freshman last season outside of some brief run against Liberty late in the season, but he'll push to make the two-deep at guard or center (official team roster lists him at both positions). A starting spot is probably out of reach at the moment.
Olusegun "Victor" Oluwatimi - RS Sophomore - 6'3" 305 lb - He arrived in Charlottesville as a walk-on transfer from Air Force. Vic is eligible this year and has been impressing in his bid to earn the center spot. Conditioning may be a question, but his athleticism is not.
Joseph Bissinger - RS Freshman - 6'4" 305 lb - Young but very strong, earned Dirty Dozen honors for his offseason S&C work, he'll fight for snaps at guard. May get a foothold as a special package guy, maybe on short-yardage situations where his strength will help with push.
Derek Devine - RS Freshman - 6'6" 295 lb - Will be in the mix for the two-deep on the interior; his wrestling background is proving beneficial to his footwork and hand technique.
Martin Weisz - RS Freshman - 6'6" 310 lb - The former three-star recruit is likely still a year away from pushing for playing time.
Virginia welcomes five new scholarship players to the O-line (one transfer, four true freshmen). While none are expected to be pushed into action come Labor Day weekend, major hits to depth over the course of the season could force some to rotate in over the coming months. Tujague has played one true freshman each of the past two seasons.
Alex Gellerstedt - RS Junior - 6'6" 325 lb - The immediately-eligible grad transfer from Penn State arrived with two years of eligibility remaining, but unfortunately knee surgery this summer ended his RS Junior season before it started. He will hopefully make his UVA debut next year.
Ja'quay Hubbard - Freshman - 6'6" 335 lb - The highly rated tackle prospect was arguably the best high school offensive lineman in Pennsylvania last season. In other years, he'd be a near lock to crack the two-deep, though improving depth may allow him to redshirt.
Kariem Al-Soufi - Freshman - 6'4" 335 lb - The German import is a high-upside prospect. Already possessing D-1 size, he'll need to master some U.S. scheme and technique nuances. He'll redshirt this year, but he's got three-year-starter potential written all over him.
Jonathan Leech - Freshman - 6'5" 270 lb - The freshman from Georgia is a solid prospect, most likely to be slotted at tackle, though he'll need to add a lot of weight during his redshirt year to be D-1 ready.
Zachary Teter - Freshman - 6'5" 300 lb - The Floridian has some good long-term upside, but is expected to redshirt this upcoming year. Most likely to slot at tackle next season.
Dillon Reinkensmeyer - He's the old man of the group. While he may not wow anyone with measurables or statistics, he's arguably the most important guy because he's the voice of experience in an otherwise young stable. The emergence of a couple of sophomores at the center spot (Fannin and Oluwatimi) mean Dillon likely shifts over to guard this season, but I'd wager he's still the one tasked with making the reads and calls, being Tujague's eyes on the field and reporting back to Anae between series. To me, right now given the question marks elsewhere on the line, the MVP goes to the guy who's going to take the young talent under his wing and lead them by steady example.
Victor Oluwatimi - He's very close to going from walk-on transfer from a mid-major to the starting center on an ACC division contender. Tujague likes his athleticism, and he's been getting consistent praise from behind the scenes about his sit-out year last season. As with any player who has yet to play a single college down, immediate expectations are to be tempered. But the potential is there for him to grab the role and hold onto it for the next three seasons.
A Stab at the Pitt Game Depth Chart
Ryan Nelson (RS So)
Bobby Haskins (So)
Chris Glaser (Jr)
Joseph Bissinger (RS Fr)
Victor Oluwatimi (RS So)
Tyler Fannin (RS So)
Dillon Reinkensmeyer (RS Jr)
Joseph Bissinger (RS Fr)
Ryan Swoboda (RS So)
Bobby Haskins (So)
This is still a younger unit than you'd prefer. The position was underrecruited at the tail end of the London era (the 2014 through 2016 classes), and that means we're short on upperclassmen a few years later. The future is bright with lots of young talent in the freshman and sophomore classes, but whether it can all come together this year is still debatable. The loss of Proctor was also disappointing, as he would've provided valuable experience to the middle of the line, but we understand he wasn't originally a Tujague recruit, and we're grateful for the four years he gave us.
We've got four guys who should be in the mix at tackle. Nelson and Reinkensmeyer are relative veterans who each have experience on the edges, though they're also versatile enough to play inside at times. The wild cards are youngsters Swoboda and Haskins, each of whom have fascinating physical profiles as long athletic tackles, but don't have starting experience yet. By the end of the season, and at the start of next season, these two could very possibly be the starting bookends, but for the moment, we think Tujague values the experience Nelson brings on the blind side while the other two get their feet wet on the right edge.
Reinkensmeyer, while an intriguing option at tackle, we project to stay in the middle. He's being displaced from the center position (where he started most of last year) with the emergence of Oluwatimi and Fannin, both of whom have long-term upside on the ball. We'd be OK with either getting the start. Putting Reinkensmeyer at RG accomplishes two things; first, it keeps his experience in the interior where he can continue to captain the line and make adjustment calls based on pre-snap reads; second, it puts his experience on the otherwise-green right side, letting the veteran stabilize that side between two first-time starting sophomores. Chris Glaser feels like a no-brainer at the moment at the LG spot, where he had seven starts last year.
So most likely we're looking at two juniors and three sophomores lining up in front of Perkins come Labor Day weekend. Three of them have starting experience, and two others have real game experience, but we're still looking at counting on young guys who have never played a meaningful snap to not only provide depth but maybe even start. If injuries force us to dip into the second line, there will be more cause for worry.
With all that said, the roster is more attuned to the needs of the system and its coaches than it has been in a long time. There are no London-coached players left in this group; other than Reinkensmeyer (who pledged to London but matriculated with Bronco's staff), every player listed was specifically targeted and brought to UVA to fit into this scheme and culture. Even better, looking at the two-deep, everyone other than Haskins has at least two years in college behind him, which is two years to physically develop, to learn the playbook, and to develop chemistry with teammates. Yes, next year will be ideal, when the starters are most (if not all) juniors and seniors. But at a minimum, take some solace in that this group is entirely 2J's guys, and they've got the athletic profile to execute what he wants to do. So this is improving (last year we graded this group out as a C-, so a C+ is incremental progress). The question will be does the youth manifest as inconsistencies in execution? Or in just having physical difficulty matching up against more experienced or talented opponents?
The end verdict is likely that this unit will be fine against a lot of the schedule; maybe not dominant, but will get the work done. However, still expect some struggles when facing down some of the more veteran, talented, well-coached front sevens we'll see like the ones at Notre Dame and Miami. Pitt, whose front seven is always one of the program's strongest units, will provide a good early benchmark for where we're at this year in the long-term rebuild.