CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - With a first-time starter at quarterback, and a number of new receivers, the Virginia football team will be leaning heavily on its offensive line this season.
The Cavaliers return all five starters from last year’s team.
Junior center Olusegun Oluwatimi says, “Having everybody back, the trust is at an all-time high right now. That’s why we’re able to play faster, and better, right now.”
“I’m really excited,” says senior offensive tackle Dillon Reinkensmeyer. “There’s a lot of potential for growth, right now. Definitely, returning a lot of people with starting experience is huge. I think this is the first time we’ve had a really cohesive line, and consistent line, since we’ve been here, so we have to take advantage of that.”
Reinkensmeyer has been a fixture on the line since his freshman season, starting 37 out of a possible 40 games, but the senior says his spot is not guaranteed.
“There’s a lot of competition, for every spot in the line,” says Reinkensmeyer. “No one is safe. I think that helps drive the competition of the team, and of the group, and I think it helps make us better.”
Oluwatimi adds, “As we’re trying to work in who’s going to be your starters this year, people are moving around every practice, so we can find the best five to play, and give us the best option to win.”
The best option might be to run the ball behind the veteran line.
Senior running back Shane Simpson says, “I love the big fellas up front. Obviously, coach (Bronco) Mendenhall wants to make sure we’re running the ball, and we’re doing a really good job of that right now.”
“In every aspect of the game, they’ve been able to push the boundaries of where they were at a year ago,” says junior running back Wayne Taulapapa. “Truthfully, you see them in the weight room, you see them working out. You see them, especially on the field. It’s nice to be able to trust those guys, and running behind them. They’re all veterans. You talk about one of the hardest working groups on the team, you got the O-Line.”
The group is the deepest it’s been since Bronco Mendenhall took over the program in 2016.
Oluwatimi says, “The O-Line has been one of the weakest links of the team, but this year, we made it an effort to not be that. We don’t want to put a big stress on the offensive coordinator, coach Garrett Tujague, quarterbacks coach, all them, trying to do more, to pick up the slack. This year we’re trying to pick up the slack for other positions.”
Virginia will kickoff the season on September 19th at Virginia Tech.