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Des Kitchings building new Virginia offense around BA, toughness

des kitchings virginia
Virginia offensive coordinator Des Kitchings. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Des Kitchings won’t have enough linemen dressed out on Saturday to run two O lines in Virginia’s spring game, meaning a few guys are going to have to line up for both teams.

That’s been the biggest challenge for the new offensive coordinator, who is having to make do this spring after a mass exodus from the offensive line room.

Virginia lost four linemen to the transfer portal – 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 – a fifth, Ryan Nelson, declared for the NFL Draft, and a sixth, Chris Glaser, is done in terms of eligibility, having used his COVID redshirt year in 2021.

That leaves Kitchings and 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 the limited numbers available in the spring made things challenging at times.

“Especially over the last two weeks, we consider some of the challenges we’ve had on the offensive line, and still those guys have been fighting to give us the opportunity to practice each day at the same tempo and pace that we want to practice,” Kitchings told members of the media on Thursday.

Kitchings and new head coach Tony Elliott are reprioritizing the run. Kitchings’ predecessor, Robert Anae, called passes on 71.9 percent of Virginia’s snaps in 2021. Elliott, the former offensive coordinator at Clemson, and Kitchings, the former offensive coordinator at NC State, would prefer to get things close to 50/50.

“We want to score in one play if we can as an offense, so it’s not that we’re crafting the offense to kind of grind it out. We’re crafting a team to be physical, like I’ve said before, to win the down,” Kitchings said.

Winning the down means breaking down how to get 10 yards over three plays.

“We talk about first down, we want to gain four or more, and we want to be able to do that running or throwing the football. So, we win that down, first down. Now, we want to win second down, so we want to gain at least half on second down, so we want to be able to win that, if a second and eight, we decide to run the ball, we want to make at least third and four. So that’s where we’re talking about with the balance part of it,” Kitchings said.

“If we get score on one, two or three plays, yes, let’s go. We’re not trying to not score the football. But we’ll also know that there’s going to be drives or situations in the game where we do have to maintain a four-minute possession to win a game, and we have to be able to win a four-minute situation with running the football to keep the other team’s offense off the field to win the game. So that’s the whole mindset of what we try to do as a as a program.”

Running the ball more will get linebackers and safeties peeking into the backfield, which will open up opportunities for QB1 Brennan Armstrong, his wideouts and tight ends in the play-action game.

The Anae offense didn’t use much play-action – just 15.9 percent of BA’s dropbacks in 2021 were play-action, according to Pro Football Focus.

But on those dropbacks, Armstrong had a 136.9 NFL passer rating – completing 59 of his 85 pass attempts for 962 yards, 11 touchdowns and two INTs.

“Brennan, he’s fine with play-action pass short game, pushing the ball down the field,” Kitchings said. “He’s a smart guy recognizing coverages, he has a quick release to get the ball out on time. So, we’ve challenged him in that regard with some things just fundamentally, with footwork and just rhythm drops and getting the ball out, whether it’s quick game or just natural dropback pass.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press

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