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Virginia Tech O-Line on a roll, but faces stiff challenge from Miami

By Mark Giannotto

The beard that Virginia Tech right tackle Blake DeChristopher sports these days is so long and scraggly, it curls along his face with no rhyme or reason. He hasn't shaved since this season began, and he's only trimmed the thing once, about a month and a half ago.

That the unfiltered growth of DeChristopher's facial hair has corresponded with the offensive line's resurgence after a rough beginning to the year is purely coincidental. But DeChristopher likes to think there's more to it than that.

"Beard plays a great role; it’s where all my strength comes from," DeChristopher joked while he stroked the thing Monday.

Whatever brawn it may provide him, DeChristopher will need all of it when the Hokies take on Miami on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound native of Midlothian, Va., has the tall task of blocking Hurricanes defensive end Allen Bailey, a likely first-round NFL draft pick next year who has seven sacks and 11 tackles for a loss this season.

Combined with defensive end Olivier Vernon (five sacks), this will be the toughest test yet for the Hokies' offensive line. Miami's defense has 40 tackles for a loss this season and 21.5 sacks. It's a good thing then that the unit has improved remarkably since taking the brunt of the blame when Virginia Tech began the season 0-2.

All five Hokies offensive linemen have graded out at better than 80 percent in four consecutive games and five of the past six. Right guard Jaymes Brooks said the line's motivation has been simple. After being embarrassed during the team's weekly Monday film review, the unit was sick of all the criticism.

“I think it’s just been us getting after it and trying to be aggressive on people, locking up people, taking more pride," Brooks said. "People were down us, well, we were down on ourselves, too, at the beginning."

Brooks points to Virginia Tech's game-winning drive against North Carolina State as the unit's "defining moment." But they've yet to face anything like Bailey, a player nicknamed "Freakzilla" by teammates.

This offseason, Bailey was rated as the No. 2 workout warrior in the country by ESPN. At 265 pounds, Bailey reportedly has a vertical leap of 39 inches, can run a 4.65 40-yard dash and has the ability to power clean 375 pounds.

DeChristopher is well aware of all of this, having being alerted to Bailey's weight room feats previously. He said Bailey's biggest strength is his bull rush, where he can just "overpower you." Lucky for DeChristopher, he's no slouch in the weight room either. He's the strongest member of the offensive line can can bench press 420 pounds.

"I've got my work cut out for me," DeChristopher said. "It'll be a battle."

By Mark Giannotto  | November 17, 2010; 4:18 PM ET
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