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2016 West Virginia Football Position Previews: Offensive Line

This is where offensive football starts. The “big uglies” as they are called are the key to a successful 2016 offensive campaign for the Mountaineers.

NCAA Football: Kansas at West Virginia Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountaineers return a lot of experience among their offensive line. The 2015 version helped pave the way for Wendell Smallwood to lead the Big 12 in rushing. Overall the Mountaineers return players with 81 starts under the belt, second in the Big 12 to Oklahoma (97).

Center

Tyler Orlosky is a strong man. Named the Iron Mountaineer this spring, Orlosky was once again named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List for the second straight year. Orlosky is the most experienced lineman with 29 starts under his belt. No other Big 12 lineman has more experience. He is the leader of the offensive line and a technician with his form and technique. Tyler is one of two returning linemen who were all-conference last year and the only returning lineman who graded out in the Top 25 by the Schneider Scale. Here is what Mike Cassazza wrote last year about Orlosky and really it hasn’t changed.

This started over the summer when I first heard stories about how Orlosky was the strongest guy on the team and might leave here in two years as the best center the school has seen. Those are some serious plaudits. You’d spend more time convincing me either is wrong than you would convincing me either is right. He’s an ideal fit at center, a strong, stout technician who is firm with is feet and sound with his hands, and I was stunned fellow Big 12 centers were so eager to praise Orlosky. What people closer to him say and marvel about most is how he doesn’t mess up despite all the things he has to know and anticipate as the central nervous system of the offense. He’s in line for a big season and some major honors at the end.

Guards

Kyle Bosch and Tony Matteo will help anchor the interior of the offensive line. Bosch is a Michigan transfer who started 3 games for the Wolverines before starting 13 for the Mountaineers. Adam Pankey’s suspension opened the door for Matteo to start this week but according to Dana, Tony was maybe in line to start before he was hurt in the first week of preseason camp. The redshirt senior who stands 6’-4” and 300 pounds has only started two games but has seen lots of game experience.

Kyle Bosch, another 300 pound guard, was named a Top 20 Offensive Lineman to Watch by Athlon Sports. Bosch started all 13 games for the Mountaineers and worked with Orlosky all of last year to maintain the necessary chemistry between offensive linemen.

Tackles

Before going down with an injury halfway through the season, redshirt freshman Yodny Cajuste was adjusting to life in the Big 12. He earned praised from head coach Dana Holgorsen early in 2015 but struggled with speed rushers. A toe injury sidelined him after the loss to Baylor and he would not return until the Cactus Bowl, where he switched numbers to be a tight end. Now healthy, Cajuste will help anchor the blind side of quarterback Skyler Howard.

Marcell Lazard stepped in for Yodny when he was hurt last year and looks to line up on the right side of the line. He was entrenched in a summer battle with Colton McKivitz, who like Cajuste was a basketball player in high school, giving him an athleticism needed for the tackle position. The competition was ultimately won by Lazard who took major strides forward during camp, thanks in part to the competition with McKivitz.

Backups

The previously mentioned Colton McKivitz will be the primary swing tackle for the Mountaineers. Suspended guard Adam Pankey could possibly return if he completes all the necessary requirements set forth by Dana Holgorsen. Grant Lingafelter will be used as the backup guard. Lingafelter has seen action in 14 games over his redshirt freshman and sophomore years, including playing in 9 games last year.

Conclusions

This is a very experienced unit who will need to set the tone in the Big 12 if the Mountaineers want to control games. They will get an early test against the Missouri Tigers, who feature an active and disruptive defensive line. If the Mountaineers are able to control the defensive lines and allow Dana Holgorsen to churn out first downs with his running backs, this could be a special year. Senior Tyler Orlosky will be anchored by experienced guards and talented tackles. If the Mountaineers are going to make noise in the Big 12, it will start up front with the “Big Uglies”.