Virginia Football Position Preview: Offensive Line

We are just ONE DAY away from the Virginia Cavaliers opening the Tony Elliott era against Richmond at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Following the departures of all five members of UVA’s starting offensive line in the offseason, the ‘Hoos enter the fall with a revamped O line that will be the biggest unknown when the season kicks off tomorrow.

The entrees

With Richmond’s game depth chart released earlier this week, the starters on the line appear to be set.

While real freshman McKale Boley will take up the left tackle position against Richmond on Saturday, the starting job is loaned out by senior Jonathan Leech who is suffering from a minor arm injury but is expected to return to the starting lineup soon. Leech is probably the one whose staff got the most praise during spring and fall camps and should provide stability in that position.

Dartmouth transfer John Paul Flores will line up at left guard and add experience as well as flexibility. He’s a realistic option at center backup and could probably fill any spot down the line in a pinch if injuries force him to do so.

At center, second Ty Furnish will be the man tasked with filling the huge shoes that Michigan center Olu Oluwatimi left behind. Originally slated to be Jestus Johnson’s replacement, Furnish earned the spot throughout fall camp. Although a bit undersized at 6’3″, 279 pounds, the Georgia native makes up for it in terms of mobility and has added nearly 40 pounds since arriving on Grounds last fall. He’s a smart player who has the opportunity to occupy the center position for the next three years.

For the right guard spot, graduate senior Derek Devine is finally getting his moment in the sun after four seasons of little to no playing time opportunities. Offering good height next to the smaller Furnish, the 6’6” Devine has experience playing for Garrett Tujague and is another semi-veteran UVA presence with Leech.

At right tackle, Furnish schoolmate Logan Taylor will open the season as a starter. After appearing in two competitions last year, the 6’6”, 300-pound Virginia native takes the right tackle job with a lot to prove.

The depth

Perhaps the most notable name among UVA’s offensive line depth is rookie McKale Boley who will be thrown directly into the fire in Game 1 as a temporary starting left tackle. Boley is quite physically advanced for a freshman as he is 6-foot-4 and weighs 331 pounds. The staff highlighted his technique and footwork as well as his ability to consume information quickly.

Jestus Johnson is the next guy to know. The backup center, Johnson is a guy who could also play guard. Auxiliary left guard Noah Josey is another player who has been in contention for a starting spot and offers playable depth while RT Charlie Patterson has drawn praise from the coaching staff.

These four along with the typical starting five make for a solid group of nine. Granted, with the inexperience in the room, it’s hard to predict how each of them will fare in the ACC game against the live competition. If the line can stabilize and get comfortable against some of the weaker competitors early in Virginia’s schedule, the UVA offense would be without significant weakness. But, if that group can’t regroup and provide at least decent protection for Brennan Armstrong as well as reasonable space in the running game, things could go downhill quickly for Wahoo’s offense.

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