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Hidden Key to Mountaineer Success: Offensive Line Critical for 2019 Mountaineer Success

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–This fall West Virginia enters the season with a great deal of unknowns. Head coach Neal Brown and Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning bring new offensive and defensive schemes; merged with a roster that is filled with unfamiliar names and inexperienced players. The running back stable is without question the Mountaineers’ position of strength. Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Alec Sinkfield headline the group. All three have proven themselves and stand to give the offense its best opportunity for success.

Brown has not indicated who will be under center this fall but Austin Kendell, the Oklahoma graduate transfer, seems to be the leading candidate. Also in the mix are Jack Allison and Trey Lowe.  Regardless of who wins the position, none of the quarterbacks have significant experience in leading a football team. Magnifying the difficulty for the new quarterback is the departure of three of the top four receivers from 2018.

The lack of experience at quarterback and wide receiver put significant pressure on the running back position to perform and carry the offense, especially early in the season during the difficult out of conference schedule against James Madison, Missouri and NC State.

While the running back room may be the obvious point of focus for the offense, the success of the 2019 season may lie firmly upon the offensive line.

With two returning starters in Colton McKivitz at left tackle and Josh Sills at left guard, many questions are still remaining along the offensive front. Kelby Wickline returns after playing significant time in 2018 but with mixed results. The right tackle stood in admirably for Yodny Cajuste during the game against Texas, following Cajuste’s ejection, but admittedly struggled in the bowl game.

Competing at center are Chase Behrndt and Adam Stilley. The position at right guard looks as if it will be filled by Michael Brown, who redshirted last year but saw limited action, mainly on special teams.

A stable offensive line will give a young and inexperienced offense time to find its rhythm through the run game.

Additionally the defense will be adopting a new scheme and a key for success will not be placing the young defenders in tough positions. The offense will have to sustain drives and not force the defense back onto the field quickly in a conference known for quick striking offenses.

West Virginia will have substantial change and growing pains this fall. With a new scheme and a plethora of new faces the Mountaineers will be searching for consistency on offense. That consistency and the success of the Old Gold and Blue, will largely hinge upon crucial development and the play of the men in the trenches.

Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS
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