MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When you think of the Big 12 conference the first thing that should come to mind is offense. The big men in the trenches are the deciding factor to how well a team will execute its offense.
The Mountaineers have three returning starters on the offensive line this year, but also return some key players who received significant playing time last year. Redshirt seniors Michael Brown and Chase Behrndt lead the charge up front for West Virginia this year.
Briason Mays was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. He was ranked at 21st in the state of Tennessee and 37th nationally by Rivals. Mays had some bright spots last season as a redshirt freshman starting in seven games and saw action on at least 50 plays in all seven of them. The best highlights of the past year for Mays would come against not one but five different opponents where he didn’t allow a single sack. He was an Academic All-Big 12 First team last season as well.
“Briason Mays has really kind of been a bright spot in camp,” coach Neal Brown said. “He’s a guy that we feel like is going to be able to move around and maybe even break into the lineup.”
Brandon Yates was a three-star recruit out of Las Vegas, Nevada where he played offensive tackle at Liberty Baptist Academy. Yates was ranked eighth in Nevada by ESPN and ninth by 247Sports. As a senior he was named to the All-4A Desert Southeast Conference First Team and All-Southeast Region. Neal Brown said Yates is battling it out with Junior Uzebu for the left tackle position, which is good news for Mountaineer fans. Coming in as a freshman and competing for a starting position is huge.
“It’s been kind of a give and take,” Brown said. “Just when we think that one guy is getting ready to take it the other guy will have a good day and the other one will fall back a little bit.”
Coming out of high school as a three-star recruit, ESPN had him ranked as the 48th best offensive tackle in the country. He redshirted his freshman year and didn’t see too much playing time last year, but expect to see some significant playing time from him this season. Having freshman Briason Mays pushing for the starting spot you can expect to see much improvement from Uzebu.
Zach Frazier is a three-star in-state recruit who was ranked the second-best prospect in West Virginia and the seventh center in the country by Rivals. Aside from football, Frazier was a three-time state champion in wrestling for Fairmont Senior (2017-19). In addition, he won two state championships in football with the Polar Bears, and amassed a 38-3 record since his sophomore season. Frazier didn’t allow a single sack his senior year and received other offers from Louisville, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
As a four-year starter in high school, Blaine Scott was a three-star recruit out of Ohio where Rivals ranked him as the 25th best guard in the country and 17th best player in Ohio. He was a three-time Associated Press Division VII All-Southeast District First Team and three-time All-Southern Ohio Conference First Team. Scott got to see some action last season in three games at the left guard position. He adds some depth to the lineup again this year.
Parker Moorer is another three-star recruit out of North Carolina where he attended Mallard Creek High School. ESPN ranked him as the 82nd best offensive tackle in the country, while Rivals had him as the 23rd prospect in North Carolina. He helped guide his high school team to a 10-1 record in 2018, including a perfect 7-0 in I-Meck Conference. In 2018 Moorer was on the I-Meck 4A All-Conference team. His first year at West Virginia he landed on the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie team. He may not see much playing time this year, but he definitely adds some depth to the offensive line.
As a redshirt freshman, James Gmiter received some significant playing time for the Mountaineers. He started in 10 of the 12 games he played in last year at both guard positions. Gmiter was on the field for the Mountaineers for over 600 plays and finished the season with 15 knockdown blocks. The most impressive stats for his redshirt freshman season are he didn’t give up a single sack for eight games and had six games without a missed assignment. Gmiter brings back some key experience and skill to the offensive line for West Virginia.
John Hughes is entering his second season at West Virginia after playing his first year of football at the JUCO level at Navarro College. While at Navarro, Hughes battled up front to help his team become the number one passing team in the country with 307 yards per game, and a fourth best 464 total yards per game. He went on to lead his team to the Southwest Junior College Football Conference semifinals and an appearance in the Salt City Bowl. His first year with the Mountaineers he played in 11 games and started one. In those 12 games Hughes played at right guard and right tackle. He saw action on 150 plays last year and recorded two knockdown blocks against NC State.
Senior, Chase Behrndt, will help lead the way up front for the Mountaineers this year. He has played in 24 games over his career, including 13 starts. Behrndt received his first action on the field his redshirt freshman season where he lined up against East Carolina and Delaware State. Then, his redshirt sophomore season he was part of an offense that was number two in the Big 12 and number four nationally for most passing yards per game (351.3). Last year, Behrndt played in 11 games, including 10 starts. He saw action on over 600 plays, registered 12 knockdown blocks and didn’t give up one sack in 10 different games! He was the offensive lineman of the game against Kansas and you should expect to see more of that this year.
Michael Brown will be leading alongside Chase Behrendt. As a freshman and sophomore, Brown played for Eastern Arizona Community College. He was part of Eastern Arizona’s high-powered offense that led the country in rushing yards (4, 022), yards per game (335.2) and rushing touchdowns (42). As a sophomore, he was named to the All-ACCAC First Team offense and the All-WSFL First Team offense. His first year with the Mountaineers, Brown was mainly used on special teams but he got to see the field on 35 plays, including 25 on special teams. Last year was the breakout season for Brown where he played in 11 games, including six starts. He was on the field for over 500 plays, registered 12 knockdown blocks, didn’t allow a sack in ten games and didn’t have a missed assignment in four games.
The Mountaineers had a rough season up front last year, but the future is bright. Neal Brown has settled in and expects a lot out of his guys, so we will get to see how that translates onto the field. After being one of the worst teams in the country last year running the ball, the only direction they can go is up.