BLACKSBURG – After a three-and-out forced by the Virginia Tech defense on Pittsburgh’s opening drive, the Hokies marched 71 yards and scored their only touchdown of the game on a third-and-9 play from the Panthers’ 27-yard line.
Cline caught four passes, tying his season high, for a season-high 65 yards and has progressed from a non-dressing freshman to Tech’s starting tight end – and a much-needed cog in the Hokies’ offense – in just six weeks.
“The Alabama game, I was watching the game in my dorm room with all my other freshmen teammates,” Cline said. “Then they came and talked to me about getting more reps in practice and testing me out in games.
“I was just doing whatever I could to help out the team as a freshman. That’s every freshman’s mindset, ‘What can I do to help?’ Then, plays just came my way. Logan threw balls my way, and I just made those plays. So I’m just thankful that I’ve had this opportunity, and it’s feeling great.”
It’s been an interesting journey for the Boca Raton, Fla., native, who actually did not sign a national letter of intent on signing day. Cline earned five varsity letters playing for Pine Crest’s basketball team and led the school to a state title.
He only saw action on the gridiron for one season with the Panthers. He made the most of it, though, catching 19 passes for 411 yards and nine touchdowns. And he didn’t choose to come to Tech until May of this year.
“Early on, before signing day, the plan was to play basketball, and then I started to get a lot more offers to play football from a lot of mid-majors,” he said. “Then, I just waited to see if I could get anything else, and then here Virginia Tech comes and Scot Loeffler [Tech’s offensive coordinator].
“Loeffler, I love his offense, the way he uses his tight ends and all the motion and spreading out. And that’s kind of my game, coming from basketball with those skills, running and agility and catching-wise. So the way he uses his tight ends, the offense that I was looking for, it was a perfect match.”
A preseason injury to projected tight end starter Ryan Malleck opened the door to a handful of players to compete for the starter’s role.
Cline saw action in the Western Carolina blowout, catching four passes for 46 yards, but wouldn’t get his first start until the Thursday night game at Georgia Tech. He caught three balls in that one for 28 yards and has started the past two games.
On the touchdown drive, he pulled in an 18-yard pass that took the ball into Pittsburgh territory, and he did it again, flipping the field on a third-and-2 at the Tech 41, catching a pass over the middle for 15 yards, in the second quarter.
He credits Thomas for most of his success.
“I’m definitely getting a feel for it,” he said. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t have too much experience, but these past couple of games, Logan’s been putting it on the money and making me look good out there. So I got that first touchdown, and it’s definitely a good ego boost, and I’m just trying to get my confidence going.”
Thomas notices the emergence of Cline and knows how important the position is in the system.
“Kalvin is doing a great job,” he said. “The more he plays, the more comfortable he gets, and that’s what we need out of him. He’s still young, and he’s still figuring it out, but the more he plays, that’s exactly what we are going to need.
“[On the touchdown play], we motioned across. I saw it was man-to-man [defense]. We had good leverage on the back, and I knew Kalvin could win [the matchup]. He’s a good route runner. He just went out there and made a play, and I’m extremely proud of him for it.”
With a bye week coming up, the Hokies talked a lot about trying to figure out some things on the offensive side of the ball, which centers mostly on getting the running game going. However, Cline has solidified the tight end spot, alleviating a big concern among the coaching staff.
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