As our unit previews continue, it's time to switch from the defense which has multiple question marks to the one with very few, the offense. What a difference a year makes in the terms of the offensive line. Coach Bedenbaugh went from having one of the thinnest units on the team to one with actual quality depth for the first time in almost 3 years.
Three seniors form the core of the offensive line. All-American and Rimington Award candidate Joe Madsen anchors the unit from the center position with 38 starts under his belt. He's flanked on both sides by veteran starters Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun at the guard spots. Jenkins is returning from a knee injury allowing Braun to move back to his more comfortable position of
team deodorant right guard. Russell Haughton-James and Brandon Jackson are listed as the reserve guards. Backing up Madsen on the depth chart is John Bassler.
Sophomore Quinton Spain moves out to the left tackle position from the guard spot he occupied last season while the right tackle is being held down by Pat Eger. Junior College transfer Mark Glowinski, Curtis Feigt and Nick Kindler are also in the mix for playing time at the tackle spots.
As with any offensive line unit, one thing to keep in mind is position shuffling. In the case of an injury and despite the depth chart, direct back-ups for any of the starters may already be on the field at another position, requiring some position swapping and shuffling of the deck, so to speak. For instance, if Madsen goes down, Braun could shift to center, slide Eger down to guard and bring in Feigt at tackle.
Coach Holgorsen has stated that he isn't afraid to put freshmen out on the field, except for on the offensive line. There are a couple of heralded freshmen from Ohio in Adam Pankey and Tyler Orlosky who may test that statement, but count Coach Bedenbaugh among those who is glad he doesn't have to count on them this year:
"I think if you're talking about last year, Pankey and Orlosky are playing for us. There's no doubt if you're talking about last year," says Bedenbaugh. "If they had come in last year, we'd have to get them ready to play. Right now, we have the luxury of giving those guys reps and understanding that hopefully we can redshirt them." - WVillustrated
A deeper, more experienced offensive line can mean only more good things for the WVU running game and pass protection. It's clearly one of the reasons for increased expectations on the offensive side of the ball for the Mountaineers this season.