When Virginia offensive lineman Morgan Moses lined up at right tackle against North Carolina this past weekend, he became just the third true freshman in school history to start at an offensive tackle position.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brad Butler both did it in 2002.
There’s a simple reason Moses is in select company -- it’s hard. Very hard.
“It’s very difficult to come in and play as a freshman on the offensive line,” said NC State coach Tom O’Brien, who spent the first 16 years of his coaching career with offensive linemen at Navy and Virginia. “Not a lot of people are able to do it or can do it. In most of the cases it’s by necessity. There are a lot of very good prospects or good talented kids coming in, but it’s something that you don’t want to be in the situation to have happen if you’re coaching a football team.”
That’s why it’s even more impressive that of the eight true freshmen to have started at offensive tackle in the country this year, four are in the ACC: UNC’s James Hurst, NC State’s Robert Crisp, Miami’s Seantrel Henderson and Virginia’s Moses.
Moses wound up playing every snap against North Carolina.
“The speed of the game, things like that, he had to adjust to,” London said. “… I would say Morgan had a couple of mental errors, which is probably the case for any true freshman that took close to 60 snaps. But I think overall his play was very good in terms of knowing assignments, getting on the defender he had to block. But like anything else, the more reps, the more opportunities he has to play, I think he’ll develop into being a really, really good player here.”
The question is whether it will be at tackle or guard. Moses had moved to tackle because of an injury to Landon Bradley.
Henderson has helped Miami’s depth and stability at the position. He played the entire game against Duke.
“Anytime you play as a freshman it’s always difficult,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “He’s big, he’s athletic, and he’s got a lot of things that are positive. Like anything he has to still learn and keep going because of so many different defenses you see and different ways they try to attack you. I’ve got to expect North Carolina will do those things to confuse him, to have some hesitation.”
Crisp has since taken the backseat to veteran starter Jake Vermiglio. O’Brien said pass protection is the most difficult part of the playbook to digest from the left tackle position, and all of the intricacies that go with each different protection as they relate to the defense the player sees.
“He’s somewhat of a special young guy,” O’Brien said of Crisp. “He’s very mature for his age and has very good physical talent. He did a nice job for us. He’s learning each and every week for us and getting better. He’s in a backup role now, so he’s about where he should be.”
After all, that's where most true freshman offensive linemen in the country usually are.