Virginia Football Notes: Offensive Line Project Big Part Of Preseason

John Paul Flores could be able to play at multiple spots on the Virginia offensive line. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/

The Virginia football team has some familiar faces on offense this season. Returning quarterback Brennan Armstrong obviously headlines that list, but the offensive line is one position that will feature new starters trying to make a name for themselves. That’s because the top six linemen from a year ago have departed the program.

That’s one area that didn’t really get a head start in the spring either because overall numbers were low following the transfers and injuries. In fact, several players took snaps for both teams in the UVA Blue-White Spring Game when fewer than 10 linemen were available to play.

With an influx of players up front, however, it’s a totally different story this preseason. Of course, that means there’s a lot of work to do to figure out the rotation before kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 3 against Richmond.

“We have more bodies, so that’s a positive, than we had in the spring,” Virginia offensive coordinator Des Kitchings said. “So it’s kind of getting those guys to gel as a group because two of them played together in the spring, maybe three. We’re trying to get that group of five, hopefully we get to eight or nine guys that can work together and gel. Again, it goes into first two days just in a helmet, they’re synchronizing and working together. Now with pads on, playing with good leverage, hand placement, those type things, and are they setting the right pass protection and things we need to do at a high level for us to win.”

The offensive line now includes seven freshmen, two transfers, and one position flip as part of the working group. The freshmen likely have an uphill battle to earn playing time, at least early in the season, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the other newcomers. Lehigh transfer Andrew Canelas (6’9″, 315) and Hugh Laughlin (6’5″, 299), who flipped over from the defensive line after the spring, are sophomores with good size and at least some college football experience in terms of practice. They too are learning the ropes, though.

On the other hand, John Paul Flores, a 6’4″, 308-pound graduate transfer from Dartmouth, could be a starter and he almost certainly will be a part of the depth component. He’s already lined up in multiple spots in the first three practices.

“John’s a smart guy,” Kitchings said. “He’s a utility guy. He’s already played a couple of positions for us in practice and that’s really good to have. We’ll keep pushing him and mixing some things up in the rotation, seeing is he in our top five, is he the sixth guy? He has some swing to him so it’s a great benefit to have right now.”

Billy Kemp IV Working Off Rust For Virginia

With Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson piling up two of the biggest yardage seasons in Virginia history, it can be easy to forget what Billy Kemp IV did last season. Kemp recorded 74 catches for 725 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2021, which gave him back-to-back seasons with at least 60 catches and 600 yards. He had 67 for 644 in the shortened 2020 season. Both efforts earned