As a veteran presence on what could be considered the established side of Virginia Tech’s offensive line, redshirt senior left guard Wyatt Teller is still committed to the notion that every position on the line is up for grabs.
Based on the experimentation he’s seeing at right guard daily in practice, and the frequent position changes offensive line coach Vance Vice encourages , it’s easy to understand how even a guy with 30 career starts like Teller might feel he needs to look over his shoulder . His starting job should be secure, but the right guard spot remains a mystery early in preseason practices.
“Every position is wide open,” said Teller, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound Manassas native who was the projected starting left guard coming into last season before he was passed over in the first two games, then went on to start the last 12 . “My position is wide open. We all know that, all right? Let’s not get too carried away. Center is wide open. Left tackle is wide open.
“Coach’s thing is everybody needs to know every position. That means (6-7, 320-pound starting left tackle Yosuah Nijman) needs to know the right guard position. I need to know the left tackle. I need to know the right tackle. I need to know the center. That’s why (Tech’s coaches have) had so much success, because guys aren’t, ‘Oh, I’m the left tackle, and that’s all I’m ever going to be.’ You know? Coach will break that out of you real quick.”
While Teller spent the offseason asserting his presence in the weight room, a cast of less er-known characters have been vying for the right guard spot.
Parker Osterloh, a 6-8, 325-pound redshirt senior , and senior Kyle Chung are finally healthy, which means they’re in the thick of the right guard race along with redshirt junior Braxton Pfaff, who emerged from spring practices atop the depth chart .
“We’ve put all sorts of people in there,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “We’ve put Chung in there. We’ve put Pfaff in there. We have put Parker in there some, trying to get the best five in there. So we’ll continue with those guys.”
Osterloh, who has been plagued by injuries in recent years, sat out spring practices with an injured ankle. After coming out of last season feeling he could finally push for a starting job , the injury was particularly demoralizing.
“That was definitely tough,” said Osterloh, who played in nine games as a backup last season. “I hate being out there on the sideline and watching everybody go practice, and I can’t do anything.”
On Thursday, he worked with the first-team at right guard.
“It’s the third day of camp, and I’ve already been moved around a couple of times,” Osterloh said Thursday before practice. “I know that’s something coach Vice is known for, being pretty fluid with where he moves guys and seeing who can play where, so I’ve been getting a little bit of everything already.”
“I’m pretty used to it.”
If Osterloh wins the starting right guard role, he’d likely be the tallest starting guard in the ACC, and one of the tallest in the country. He believes his height gives him an advantage working alongside the right tackle, which is manned by projected starter Tyrell Smith, a 6-3, 301-pound redshirt sophomore.
Osterloh isn’t dwelling on his injury-riddled past .
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Osterloh, who has also played tackle . “I can’t really focus on that, or else I’m never going to get better. Really, the only thing I can do is go out and compete every day and do my best. Injuries are part of the game, and hopefully that won’t happen, but if it does, I understand that.”
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Chung, a 6-3, 302-pound Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., native who is the son of former Tech offensive tackle great Eugene Chung ( 1987-91, All-American in ’91), is familiar with the position shuffle and injury bug. He’s also looking to nail down a regular starting gig for the first time after starting twice last season at center as an alternative to Eric Gallo, a 6-2, 300-pound senior who is entering his third season as starting center.
In his freshman season, a shoulder issue was his most troublesome injury. Forget about lifting weights. Chung couldn’t hold the 45-pound bar, which meant no upper-body work or squats.
It was just the start maladies that kept him from making a run at a starting job.
“It’s been hard,” he said. “With the coaching staff now and the coaching staff before, they kind of helped me keep my head straight. They did all the right things and found a position where I can play. I’m healthy. I got a lot bigger over the summer and I’m excited.”
Like Osterloh, Chung is playing for his third offensive line coach at Tech. Though Chung might’ve been motivated early in his career to try to live up his dad’s legacy , those days are in the past.
“I think I’ve made a name for myself here, and maybe when I first got here as a freshman I felt that pressure a little bit, but not so much anymore,” he said.
None of these transitional growing pains on the right side of the line come as a surprise to the coaching staff, which knew it was in for a hectic evaluation period after the departures of former multi-year starters Augie Conte at right guard and Jonathan McLaughlin at right tackle.
Teller feels the line won’t find stability until players can rely on each other . He believes they’re close to achieving that goal.
“If you know what he’s doing, he knows what you’re doing, you trust him,” Teller said. “I trust Gallo. I trust (Nijman). I trust the right side. I trust everybody. I trust the third-team guys and the second-team guys and the first-team guys. That’s how it’s got to be to have success.”