We’re going to see offensive linemen drafted early and often this April. Every NFL team wants a franchise left tackle they can rely on to protect their quarterback. A lack of offensive line depth was quite evident all throughout the league in 2020. These factors should make Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw a top priority for many teams in the 2021 NFL Draft.
A promising blocker with tons of experience against top competition under his belt, Darrisaw recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his impressive career for the Hokies, what he loves about playing the position, how he handles different pass rushers, and what kind of player he’ll be at the next level.
JM: Before your time at Virginia Tech, you spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy. What were the main lessons that you learned during your time there?
CD: I learned a lot about discipline and time management. Those lessons stay with me today. I’m always on time for everything. I actually arrive at most of my appointments early. I’m never going to be the last guy to show up to something. That’s just not me. That’s really what I learned. They teach a lot of discipline. We made our bed every morning. We had to make sure that everything we owned was tidy and straight. Organization was everything. I’m very tidy to this very day.
JM: Your time there clearly made an impact on you. You earned a starting job at Virginia Tech as a true freshman. That’s not exactly common. What was it about your mindset that allowed you to play as a starter from such a young age?
CD: Coming into Tech, I didn’t start off at left tackle. It was originally solidified at fall camp that I would be the backup left tackle. Our first game was against Florida State. Our starter used to cramp up every time we had a hot day at practice. The coaching staff didn’t want to have to worry about that as we headed to Tallahassee. We all know what the weather could get like up there.
I felt like I was ready. I got my opportunity and I made the most of it. I never looked back. I was definitely nervous, though (laughs).
It was my first game and I was going up against Brian Burns. He was already one of the top defensive ends in all of college football. He’s already a great player in the NFL as well. My coaches prepared me for the challenge. I felt confident in myself. I trusted my coaches. They felt I was ready and they put me out there.
JM: You were ready and you never looked back. You have a ton of experience as a high-quality starter. You spent three years at Virginia Tech as one of their key players. You did nothing but get better every single year. How do you look back on your time at Virginia Tech?
CD: Man, I enjoyed my time at Virginia Tech. I feel like it was a great fit for me. My family loved it. I loved my coaches and all of the people there. My teammates are more than that. I look at those guys like they’re my brothers. They welcomed me with open arms. From my first day there, I always felt accepted. It was the greatest feeling. All of the seniors, the veterans as we call them, they always treated me with respect. I really enjoyed my time there. I feel like I made the most of it.
JM: Do you have a favorite moment in a Virginia Tech jersey?
CD: I’ll always remember the first time I ran out of that tunnel and took the field at Lane Stadium. To see all of those people in the stands, 50 or 60,000 screaming fans. There’s nothing like it. The house was always packed to watch us play. We have the best fans in the world.
JM: What can you tell me about the scheme that Virginia Tech ran on offense and what your coaches asked of you?
CD: We ran a little bit of everything. We ran inside and outside zone. We ran a lot of passing plays out of the spread. This past year, we really became a ground-and-pound offense. We wanted to come straight at you. We weren’t playing around. No more going around you. We were a ground-and-pound offense in 2020. We were tough. We didn’t play a team that was tougher than us up front. I really felt that way.
JM: Do you feel like that play style or scheme fits you best at the next level?
CD: I feel like I can play in any scheme. I can play in a gap scheme, inside, or outside zone, it doesn’t matter. I can play in any scheme.
JM: What’s your favorite part of playing offensive tackle?
CD: I love blocking in the run game. There’s nothing better than double-teaming the 3-technique and placing him in front of his own linebacker so that neither of them can make a play. That allows the running back to hit a big play. I love that. That’s the best part of it.
JM: That’s great. You touched on run blocking there, and now I want to talk about your skills in pass protection. How do you handle speed differently from power?
CD: I always try to take away the inside move. I force you to go outside. Once I have you outside, there really isn’t much that you can do at that point. You can try to counter back inside, but I’m already there waiting for you (laughs). Once I have you outside, I’m just gonna run you past the pocket.
JM: I love that answer. You mentioned Brian Burns earlier, but who are some of the best pass rushers you’ve ever played against?
CD: Gregory Rousseau from Miami comes to mind immediately. Patrick Jones II and Boogie Basham are great players. My freshman year was crazy. It’s been a while but I still remember that year. It was loaded with talented pass rushers. Miami had another defensive end that wore No. 97 [Jonathan Garvin], he was great.
Boston College had a guy that wore No. 2, I think his name was Zach Allen. He was like 285 pounds and playing defensive end. I was out there like what the hell is this?! (laughs). That dude is a freak. He was incredible. I hadn‘t seen anything like that before. My freshman year was different. I went up against some incredible pass rushers all year long.
Quincy Roche is a good one. Those are the main names that come to mind.
JM: That’s a great list. What’s your favorite way to demoralize your opponent?
CD: I love to go out there and physically dominate my opponent. I’m going to whoop your ass up and down the field on every single play. I’m gonna talk about it too (laughs). I’m gonna let you know that you’re getting your ass kicked out here.
JM: So you’re a big trash talker?
CD: I wouldn’t say I’m a big trash talker. But if you get me started, then yeah, I’m coming right back at you. You don’t wanna’ get me started (laughs). I’m gonna finish it.
JM: That’s my kind of player. Do you have a preferred pass set?
CD: The vertical pass set is probably my favorite. It allows me to get to my spot and get my hands ready. I keep my feet moving. I’m always ready for the inside or outside move. If I get a powerful rusher that has a good bull rush, as long as I place my hands correctly, I win the rep. The low hand wins. When they try to bull rush me and get their hands higher up on my shoulders, if I can get my hands right under them and sit down, it’s over. I win.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses right now?
CD: My athleticism is the first thing that comes to mind. I’m one of the more athletic tackles in this draft class. My strength in general is a big strength of mine. I’m strong. I feel like I can move anybody lined up in front of me off the line of scrimmage.
Some of my weaknesses that I’m currently working on: I’m working on improving my two-hand punch in pass protection. I’m working on my one-two. I can react to any move the defender tries with that.
JM: Is there an NFL offensive tackle that you’d love to sit down with and get an opportunity to pick their brain?
CD: Big Trent Williams. He’s incredible. The way he moves at his size, I really wanna model my game after him, to be honest with you. He reaches the second level and demolishes people. The first level, the second level, the linebackers, and safeties don’t stand a chance. It’s a problem when he gets out in space. He just bulldozes people out of his way. It’s incredible to watch. I love the way he plays the game.
JM: That’s a great choice. If you could block for any quarterback in the NFL, who would you choose and why?
CD: It would have to be Patrick Mahomes, right? Am I allowed to say that he’s the best quarterback in the league? I would love to block for a dude like that. His playmaking ability is off the charts. You know he’s going to make a play. Even when he’s not trying, he still makes a play (laughs).
JM: You can’t go wrong with Mahomes. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Christian. This has been terrific. I feel like you’ve allowed me to tell the full scope of your draft story and I’m thankful to you for that. In closing, what kind of impact is Christian Darrisaw going to make at the next level?
CD: I’m gonna be a leader first and foremost. That’s a given. I always go 100% for my guys. I’m that type of leader. I’m gonna be a starter from day one. I’m gonna work hard. I’m gonna’ put in extra work.
Whatever is required of me to become one of the greats, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m gonna go out there and ball.