UVA O-Line burning the midnight oil to improve
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- No group had more pressure entering the season at Virginia than the offensive line and the unit has embraced the pressure, which is reflected in their work ethic.
"They're working hard, they're in here early, they're with Coach Tujague late at night," quarterback Brennan Armstrong said, "I room with one of them, so I know he's in and out of the house all day. They're working really hard just to be a staple and a cement piece for us upfront."
Growing pains were always expected for UVA offensive line returning just two combined starts at the FBS level. Virginia ranked near the bottom of the ACC in sacks allowed heading into last week against Duke, but only gave one against the Blue Devils and for the most part gave Armstrong a clean pocket.
"Every week we're trying to get a little bit better, we know we're a younger group in terms of starts," senior offensive guard Derek Devine said, "We're just trying to build confidence with ourselves, with our unit and get a little bit better every week. Duke, I think we did take a step forward and if we can build on that, stack games like that."
The results of their effort helped Armstrong deliver one of his better games this season, throwing for more than 200 yards for the first time against a Power-5 opponent. Players along the O-line have put in a lot of hours with offensive line coach Garret Tujague, but have also taken upon themselves holding player only meetings.
"The guys up front, they're working their tails off. You got five guys that are trying to gel together. You got one that's playing with one and a half arms," Elliott said, referring to Jonathan Leech who is currently playing with a cast on his left arm, "Part of how we help them is when we do pass, we're on time."
Virginia has changed their approach in some ways, using a quicker throws to shorten the time line protects. The line has also seen a lot of rotation in recent weeks with Jestus Johnson and Ty Furnish splitting time at center, Noah Josey handed a heavier workload against Duke and up to eight offensive lineman seeing snaps during a game.
"We have no choice but to be comfortable because that's just what we have, it's been that way all along," Kitchings said.
The rotation and switching is something the offensive line has dealt with dating back to spring practice as they try to build depth and experience. The reps through five games has shown growth overall, but more specifically as a group gelling together.
"Upfront you've got to have everyone come together," senior offensive lineman John Paul Flores said, "You've got to trust the guy to the left and to the right and I think that trust and that confidence has grown a lot since camp."