Virginia Tech’s Teller likely to avoid redshirt after move to offensive tackle
Liberty product Wyatt Teller has moved to the offensive line at Virginia Tech as a true freshman after originially being groomed as defensive tackle. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
It began as a joke.
But instead of a punch line, Wyatt Teller got an offensive line tag next to his name on the Virginia Tech football roster.
On Aug. 14, Teller — the former Liberty High superstar defensive end — began practicing with Tech’s offensive line corps after injuries struck that already shallow unit.
That conversion may allow Teller to join the Virginia Tech travel squad that will head to Atlanta on Saturday for a season-opening game against No. 1 Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
Teller and Jeff Grimes, the Hokies’ offensive line coach, actually talked earlier in the preseason about Teller making the transition from the defensive tackle to offensive tackle. Grimes even let Teller take a few practice reps with the Hokies’ offense.
“Coach and I have always had a little joking around,” Teller said. “He’d say, ‘Come to the real man’s side of the ball. All I need is [the] word and you can.’”
Teller said the magic words to Grimes following a practice earlier this month after the freshman learned offensive lineman Mark Shuman had suffered a knee injury that is expected to sideline him for weeks.
“‘Hey, I’m ready to step up if you want to take me as an offensive tackle,’” Teller said.
Teller previously played left tackle for Liberty as a junior in 2011, but as a senior he switched to fullback before the Eagles’ fourth game of the season. Regardless, Liberty coach Sean Finnerty calls Teller one of the best offensive linemen he’s ever coached.
During his Liberty career, Teller also started three seasons at defensive end, and that’s where his heart still lies.
“I loved defensive line a lot more than offensive line,” he said. “But I’m trying to help out the [Virginia Tech] team. … If I was a coach, I’d want somebody to step up [and fill an offensive line void]. It was what I would want from a player.”
Had Teller remained a defensive tackle, he likely would have ended up using a redshirt this season. As an offensive tackle, however, he has a realistic chance to make Virginia Tech travel team and serve as a backup lineman.
“There’s so much talent in front of me” on the defensive line, Teller said. “I didn’t get a lot of reps.”
By not using a redshirt this season, Teller could end up burning a year of eligibility without getting much playing time.
His move to offensive line could also hinder his development as a defensive lineman should Tech decide to move him back to that side of the ball after this season.
“Probably a little bit … it might hurt, but right now I’m just trying to help that [offensive] side,” Teller said.
The transition to offensive tackle hasn’t been easy, either.
“Jumping in, it’s real difficult,” the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Teller said. “It’s just so different in college. Every play the guy in front of you is really big and fast.”
Of the 18 NCAA Division I teams that offered Teller a scholarship out of high school, South Carolina and Oregon were the only two that recruited him as an offensive lineman.
Other teams, including Virginia Tech, mentioned the possibility of playing offense but had plans for him to flourish on the defensive line.
Now that Teller has shifted to offensive tackle, his goal is to make the cut for Virginia Tech’s travel team, beginning with the squad that will go to Atlanta and play Alabama.
“I’m just hoping to make that travel squad,” said Teller. “Hopefully we’ll go down to the Georgia Dome and beat Alabama."
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