Under the tutelage of Virginia offensive lineman Dillon Reinkensmeyer this spring, redshirt sophomore tackle Ryan Swoboda revamped the way he studies game film.
“Dillon showed me the speed of the game, what the defense is doing and how to read that defense,” Swoboda said. “He’s so confident with all his calls. I still have so much to learn from him.”
This spring, Swoboda and Reinkensmeyer huddled in front of a video screen four times a week, trying to perfect the minutia of the Cavaliers’ blocking scheme. That may pay off sooner rather than later.
Penn State graduate transfer Alex Gellerstedt’s season-ending knee injury left a gaping hole at right tackle. Swoboda, a 6-foot-10, 300-pound redshirt sophomore, is in line to fill it. In camp, he’s competing with sophomore Bobby Haskins (6-7, 285), but Swoboda said he’s simply focused on getting better.
“On the offensive line, you can always get better, whether it’s hand placement or bend,” he said. “By focusing on one thing every play and every rep and correcting those mistakes, that’s how you become a complete player.”
Standing a good three inches taller than everyone else on the field, Swoboda rarely struggles to make first contact. He’s focused on getting stronger and gaining weight, and said he has put on about 10 pounds since arriving on Grounds.
The goal is somewhere around 320, and he’s eating six or seven meals a day to get there.
“I still want to be able to move,” Swoboda said. “There are harder things to do than eating, but eating right is the key – cooking when I don’t feel like it and constantly eating.”
The work he put in this spring and summer wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“He’s long and he’s getting stronger every day,” sophomore left tackle Ryan Nelson said. “If he gets his hands on you, it’s over.”
Last season, Swoboda made appearances at both right and left tackle and even brief stint at tight end. This offseason has been all about the trenches. He spent some time this spring at left tackle, but the bulk of his snaps came on the right side, which is where he spent most of his high school career.
“It just feels natural to me,” Swoboda said. “[Moving back to right tackle] feels for the first couple of days like you’re writing with your opposite hand or something, but once you get that muscle memory going, it gets pretty easy.”
As a senior, Swoboda helped Windemere Prep go 10-1 in 2016 and make the semifinals in the state tournament. He also played basketball at Windemere and won a state title.
This fall, he’ll get an early shot at blocking for quarterback Bryce Perkins, who many believe is a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. He’ll also help an offense breaking in a new backfield try to improve on last season’s 173.2 rushing yards a game.
“Everybody is buying in and with that, we’re all just trying to get better each day with each rep,” Swoboda said. “We’re getting a lot of reps. We tweaked some things, but with reps comes confidence.”
Virginia opens the season on Aug. 31 at Pittsburgh.