MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia University offensive line lost four big-time contributors and has a lot of new faces with some big shoes to fill.
Last season the Mountaineers’ line was ranked fifth best in the country by Pro Football Focus and helped the offense to average 485.5 yards per game of total offense (No. 17 nationally), 228.4 yards rushing (No. 25 nationally) and 257.2 yards passing (No. 42 nationally).
The heart of the offensive line, Tyler Orlosky, graduated and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. Also, Adam Pankey graduated and signed with the Green Bay Packers. Tony Matteo graduated and Marcell Lazard transferred to Boston College as a graduate transfer. Two other backups that have departed are Sylvester Townes (graduated) and Dontae Angus (left program).
Former offensive line coach Ron Crook took a job at the University of Cincinnati, leaving Joe Wickline in charge.
Despite losing three starters, WVU is confident in the upcoming group.
Kyle Bosch is the face of the O-line. The redshirt senior has started all 26 games for the Mountaineers at right guard. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder is WVU’s most experienced player and the leader of the O-line.
Colton McKivitz is the next most experienced component of the line. The 6-foot-7, 305-pound sophomore started nine games in 2016, bouncing from right and left tackle.
Like Bosch, the newcomers of the line are looking to McKivitz for guidance.
After Yodny Cajuste’s season-ending knee injury, McKivitz was thrust into a starting role at left tackle but handled the pressure with ease and developed into a tremendous asset for the Mountaineers.
With Cajuste healthy, McKivitz is expected to move back to right tackle.
The 6-foot-5, 308-pound Cajuste was cleared to start practicing this spring. During his tenure at WVU, Cajuste has been plagued by injuries. In 2015, he missed six games with a knee injury and he suffered an ACL tear during the season-opener against Missouri last year.
However, the redshirt junior should be ready to play come September.
Coming out of high school, Cajuste was ranked the 40th best offensive tackle in the country by 247Sports.
Entering his fifth season with the Mountaineers, senior Grant Lingafelter has been around the program the longest. The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Chagrin Falls, Ohio native has played in 22 games. He has only seen the field for a total of only 284 offensive snaps but adds depth at both guard positions.
Replacing Orlosky is no easy feat but Matt Jones is ready for the task. The 6-foot-2, 319-pound sophomore redshirted in 2015 and made an appearance against Iowa State. But Jones has had the privilege of learning from one of the best in the game for two seasons.
Ray Raulerson is expected to be Jones’ backup at center. The redshirt junior sat out last season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. At Tennessee in 2015, the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder appeared in five games as a redshirt freshman.
JUCO transfers Kelby Wickline is able to play almost anywhere on the line. The 6-foot-4, 281-pound sophomore is the son of the current offensive line coach. He can play center but will most likely see action at guard and tackle.
Isaiah Hardy is another JUCO pickup but has not enrolled yet. Tyler Thurmond is a freshman and will likely redshirt.
Josh Sills is a redshirt freshman that has impressed his teammates over the summer.
Rob Dowdy and Ja’Shaun Seider are redshirt sophomores who can play multiple positions.
The 6-foot-2, 306-pound Seider can play tackle, guard or center but has never played a down a WVU. The 6-foot-4, 299-pound Dowdy saw limited playing time last season on special teams.
Redshirt freshman Jacob Buccigrossi was in the mix for the backup center position before suffering a knee injury in the spring.
Redshirt freshman Chase Behrndt and sophomore Alec Shriner are former defensive linemen who are biding for playing time at guard.
(Feature Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)