Today, as we shift our preseason previews to the offensive side of the ball for the Mountaineers, we start with the big boys up front. This is a unit that, in my opinion, is the most critical unit on the field for a team and generally the most under-appreciated. The offensive line is a position that usually doesn't want the press, because if the press is talking about them...it typically means that they aren't doing something right.
WVU's line last year played almost the whole year as a unit, with very few snaps being taken by the second string players. It's also a unit that has under-performed in many fans opinions. Senior left tackle Don Barclay feels a large factor in those struggles was not having an identity on offense the last few years. That is definitely a thing of the past:
“We’ve got our identity back. We’re a spread-out offense now,” Barclay said recently. “We’re going to be good at what we do and I think — like coach said, too — that if you mess up, mess up strong and hit someone and knock them over. Don’t stand there." - Times West Virginian
Now, under Coach Holgorsen and OL Coach Bedenbaugh the line moves back to basically a zone blocking scheme with a few man blocking concepts mixed in.
The left side of the center is pretty much set to have Don Barclay at tackle and Jeff Braun at guard. Josh Jenkins was in the mix at left guard, but a knee injury during the Gold/Blue game has sidelined him for the year. Joe Madsen returns at center and has been getting high praise from the new WVU head coach during the fall camp pressers. While this group is experienced on the left side and center, the right side guard looks to be occupied by Tyler Rader. Pat Eger is penciled in at right tackle for the moment, but redshirt freshman Quinton Spain is also in the mix.
The biggest concern with this group is the lack of depth and seeming lack of competition from the guys listed second on the team's depth chart based on statements from both Coach Holgorsen and Bedenbaugh. But, take heart Mountaineer fans, Coach Bedenbaugh offers these words:
“I love every one of the guys we have,” Bedenbaugh said. “I don’t have an issue with any one of them and the reason is they want to be great. They play hard, they go out there and listen because they want to be great. It’s fun to coach guys that want to be great.” - West Virginia Illustrated
They want to be great. Personally, I think there will be a great improvement over the last few editions of the Mountaineer offensive line. Greatness is certainly a possibility. Time will tell soon enough.
Later today, we look at the receiving corps.