The Virginia football team is coming off its first eight-win season since 2011 and a dominant performance in the Belk Bowl against South Carolina. Add to that the Cavaliers’ highest-rated recruiting class since 2014 and it’s easy to see how expectations in Charlottesville are at a level unmatched by any UVa football team in the past decade.
The unofficial transition from summer to fall begins in a couple weeks with ACC Media Days in Charlotte, North Carolina. Leading up to the event, we’ll feature 19 UVa players to watch in 2019. Some are familiar names. Some are new. All are expected to play massive roles in Virginia’s continued rebuild this season.
We’re approaching the top 10 players to watch in 2019, and coming in at No. 11 is the Cavaliers’ most experienced and versatile offensive lineman, junior Dillon Reinkensmeyer.
Reinkensmeyer comes into this season having played three different positions and with 24 career starts under his belt. Last fall, he was Virginia’s highest-rated pass blocker, according to PFF College. After spending the bulk of the season at center, he may have found a home at right guard after helping the Wahoos average 4.3 yards per carry and put up 205 rushing yards in a 28-0 win in the Belk Bowl against South Carolina.
Tale of the tape
» Height: 6-6
» Weight: 300
» Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
» Last season: He started all 13 games on the interior of an offensive line that paved the way for 173.2 rushing yards a game, which was the program’s most since 2004.
» Depth at the position: Virginia’s coaches have to hope Tyler Fannin or Victor Oluwatimi emerges at center so Reinkensmeyer can solidify one of the guard spots. The other will likely be junior Chris Glaser or Oluwatimi, if he isn’t the one delivering the snaps. Gerrik Vollmer was a top backup last season, Ben Trent saw extensive snaps at guard this spring and freshmen Ja’Quay Hubbard or Kariem Al Soufi could also be in the running.
» Number to know: 3. Reinkensmeyer was a member of three state championship teams at Valor Christian High School in Colorado.
» Outlook: Virginia has to replace three starters on the offensive line: Marcus Applefield at right tackle, Jake Fieler at right guard and left guard R.J. Proctor, who transferred to Oklahoma. Ryan Nelson started 13 games last season at left tackle, and Penn State graduate transfer Alex Gellerstedt will probably step in at right. Reinkensmeyer and Glaser both have plenty of experience, and there’s a lot of promise among the new faces. The Cavaliers need a couple of those newcomers to hit the ground running, but there will be more experience and depth on the offensive line this fall than during any of head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s previous three seasons.
If there’s one thing Mendenhall and offensive line coach Garrett Tujague value in an offensive lineman, it’s versatility. This year, they’re overflowing with it. Reinkensmeyer was a tackle in high school. In 2017, he started three games at left tackle and nine at center. Last season, he started the first 12 at center and moved to right guard for the Belk Bowl.
Glaser has seen time at guard and tackle, Oluwatimi is comfortable at center or guard and if needed, Nelson can bump inside to guard. Even though Gellerstedt is probably destined for the edge, he saw snaps at guard at Penn State and can move inside should the need arise. It can never hurt to have linemen with varied skill sets. The coaches never know when someone is going to go down and they’re left to play musical chairs in order to keep the best five on the field.
Getting a push
Last season, Reinkensmeyer and the rest of the interior linemen helped Virginia convert 92.6 percent of its third and fourth down runs of two yards or less, which ranked No. 2 in the country. The Cavaliers have big-bodied, downhill runners in the backfield and a slippery dual-threat quarterback in Bryce Perkins. When the middle of the line knocks defenders back a step, more lanes open up in every avenue of the running game.
Reinkensmeyer had to grow into a road-grader. He stepped on Grounds as a 275-pound freshman, and despite his experience and the 25 or so pounds he has put on, he’ll have to continue to progress to hold off first-years like Hubbard and Al Soufi, who came in with impressive mobility despite weighing more than 300 pounds.