The arduous journey back onto the field continues Saturday afternoon when the Hokies play their first road game against winless Duke (0-3), roughly 120 miles east of Hoffman’s childhood home in Statesville, N.C.
Hoffman (6 feet 3, 317 pounds) transferred to Virginia Tech from Coastal Carolina to be closer to his family, with his mother continuing to suffer side effects from having a benign brain tumor removed in 2017. Changing schools trimmed Hoffman’s transportation time almost in half.
After receiving extensive documentation regarding her condition, the NCAA denied Hoffman’s initial waiver request for a medical hardship and subsequent appeal. The decision, Hoffman later revealed, brought his mother, Stephanie, to tears.
Coach Justin Fuente repeatedly questioned the reasoning behind the NCAA’s ruling, calling it disappointing at best while lamenting the hardship Hoffman and his family went through only to be dealt another setback.
“He’s a really intelligent player, so he’s able to help other people not just know what to do but know how to do it,” Fuente said. “I can say this without a doubt: He has helped other people elevate their game.”
Hoffman redshirted last season, practiced with the scout team and didn’t gripe publicly before making his debut with the Hokies memorable in front of a handful of family members at Lane Stadium, which permitted only relatives of players and coaches to attend amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Hoffman won the starting job during training camp, moving ahead of incumbent Bryan Hudson on the depth chart. The rest of the offensive line comprises guard Lecitus Smith, a redshirt junior, and tackle Christian Darrisaw, a junior, on the left side and sophomores Doug Nester at right guard and Luke Tenuta at right tackle.
“Ever since I got here, I’ve just tried to come in and implement this edge and nastiness to us,” said Hoffman, a two-year starter for the Chanticleers, after helping Virginia Tech amass 314 rushing yards in a 45-24 triumph over North Carolina State. “I started to see it last year.”
Hoffman was named ACC offensive lineman of the week, drawing praise from teammates for making the calls that led to the Hokies averaging 7.7 yards per rush, all the while snapping without a hitch in Fuente’s two-quarterback rotation of Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson II.
Burmeister started in place of ailing Hendon Hooker, who was back at practice this week, according to Fuente, and is questionable for Saturday.
Running back Khalil Herbert, a transfer from Kansas, rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown, and Rutgers transfer Raheem Blackshear had a rushing touchdown and 28 yards before cramps kept him out for the majority of the second half with the outcome well in hand.
Herbert and Blackshear had a better view than most of Hoffman’s gritty performance that left Wolfpack defensive linemen on their heels or on the ground, allowing Virginia Tech to dictate terms at the line of scrimmage despite being down 23 players and several coaches because of positive tests or contact tracing.
Hoffman worked primarily against nose tackle Alim McNeill, limiting the NFL prospect to one tackle.
There was plenty of feisty chatter in the trenches too, so much so that officials, according to Smith, even cautioned Hoffman multiple times to keep his hands and emotions in check.
“If you line up on the opposite side of the ball in front of Brock, you’re not going to like him very much at all,” Smith said. “As a matter of fact, it’ll make you hate him.”