Boley, surprise starter at OT for Virginia, has big-time football in his bloodline

By Jerry Ratcliffe

McKale Boley

As big ol’ McKale Boley rumbled off the practice field Tuesday, he was given some breaking news. Forgive Boley if he was bowled over.

The freshman lineman, who stands 6-foot-4, 331 pounds, was told he will be the first true freshman to start a season opener at offensive tackle since D’Brickashaw Ferguson in 2002. Ferguson went on to a lengthy, star-studded career in the NFL for the New York Jets.

“One of the guys said [to Boley], yeah, the last freshman to start at tackle was also the fourth pick of the draft, so hopefully that didn’t scare [Boley],” Virginia coach Tony Elliott chuckled during his game week press conference on Tuesday. “I’m trying to get him to calm down, not to put any pressure on him, but he loves football. It’s important to him and you can tell that he put in the work to be ale to understand the concepts we’re asking him to understand and then be able to physically go out and play.”

Boley, raised in Hattiesburg, Miss., bolted into the starting role at left offensive tackle when Jonathan Leech showed up with a cast on his left arm last week. Boley will line up against Richmond on Saturday, but the assignment is something that Elliott and O-line coach Garett Tujague are confident the rookie can handle.

“So [Boley] was the next guy up,” Elliott said. “But for him to even be in the position to be the next guy up, he comes from a pedigree.”

Boley’s father, Michael, was an outstanding player at Southern Miss, where he was the 2004 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as a linebacker, then played nine seasons in the NFL for the Falcons, Giants and Bengals. He was part of the New York Giants’ Super Bowl championship in Super Bowl XLVI.

Michael Boley (Photo: New York Giants)

“So he has that background,” Elliott said. “He came in with good size. Still can improve from a strength standpoint, but he has the functional strength, and he’s big, he’s athletic, and it didn’t seem to overwhelm him, which allowed him to be able to perform to give us the confidence to say, you know what, if Leech is down for the game and he’s going to be the first guy to run out there. So I’m excited for him and his opportunity.”

Boley will line up beside left guard John Paul Flores and center Ty Furnish, right guard Derek Devine and right tackle Logan Taylor. Boley’s backup is Colby McGhee, a 6-3, 298 sophomore (see complete depth chart here).

Elliott said Tuesday that the offensive line is actually ahead of where he thought it would be entering game week (the Cavaliers host Richmond at 12:30 on Saturday). His words ended some angst among Wahoo Nation about how shaky the O-line appeared to be throughout training camp due to illness and injuries.

“So I’m excited to see those guys because the progress that I’ve seen them make over the last couple of weeks has been impressive,” Elliott said.