Derek Devine hopes to build on spring to earn O line snaps at Virginia in the fall
Derek Devine, who has been on the field for 41 offensive line snaps in his four seasons at Virginia, saw the guys he came up with all leaving, either for a shot at the NFL, or greener pastures through the transfer portal.
Natural question: why didn’t he join them?
“There’s a lot of reasons. I would say the main one is, when I came here, this was one of my only offers, my only big offer. And I also fell in love with the school. I’ve been in love with the school. I think this is the greatest school in the country, the greatest place to play in the country. So yeah, it never crossed my mind to leave,” said Devine, a Pittsburgh native who is on track to graduate with a degree in economics in the spring.
Five of his O line teammates left after former head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced that he would step down after the season – Ryan Swoboda, who ended up at Central Florida, Olusegun Oluwatimi, who is going to Michigan, Bobby Haskins, who is on his way to Southern Cal, Joe Bissinger, who is headed to SMU, and Ryan Nelson, who declared for the NFL Draft.
A sixth O lineman, Chris Glaser, is done in terms of eligibility, having used his COVID redshirt year in 2021.
That leaves offensive line coach Garett Tujague with five guys who’ve seen the field at the college level, for a grand total of 312 snaps, the bulk of those by junior tackle Jonathan Leech (224 career snaps, including 183 in 2021).
That group will be bolstered this summer by two incoming transfers, John Paul Flores (Dartmouth) and Mac Hollensteiner (Georgetown), both tackles, but with spring practice under way, it’s a daily battle for the guys who are on Grounds to get a leg up.
“For every guy in the room, from me being an incoming fifth-year, all the way down to first-year walk-ons, I mean, it’s a competition, it’s a battle,” Devine said. “There’s not that many spots right now, so everyone is ready to compete. The spot can go to anybody. No one has a secure spot, and that really breeds competition.”
Tujague has been trying to get the point across that his O line guys shouldn’t be waiting until fall camp to get his attention.
“I took them all, sat them down and said, it would kind of be embarrassing if a kid came in here in fall camp or over the summer and took your job. I mean, honestly, for being real, there’s 15 practices. If someone who didn’t have those 15 practices comes in here and takes your job, you probably should be embarrassed,” Tujague said.
Regarding Devine, who didn’t get on the field in the fall, Tujague pointed to his extensive work last spring as something he’s been able to build on.
“Last spring, Chris Glaser was down, so Derek took every rep, and he was on target to have an amazing fall. He had grown leaps and bounds in what we were doing. And I was bummed because he should have equivalent to probably Bissinger snaps if he would have stayed healthy,” Tujague said.
Devine is growing into the responsibility of being the old guy in the position room.
“For me, basically, it’s making sure everyone else knows, or is up to speed, with me,” Devine said. “Obviously, I haven’t taken a lot of starting reps over the years, but I’ve been in the room. I’ve been around guys like Chris Glaser and Victor Oluwatimi. I’ve learned a lot from them, and it’s kind of just right now getting everyone up to that speed. I mean, you don’t need to be a starting talent to have that type of knowledge. And I think that’s what we’re working on right now, is just getting that baseline knowledge experience.”
Story by Chris Graham