MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia University’s offensive line suffered gigantic losses last season, losing three starters to graduation and a backup, who transferred to Boston College.With the loss of Tyler Orlosky, Tony Matteo, Adam Pankey and Marcell Lazard, WVU has several big shoes to fill but Joe Wickline’s squad isn’t so depleted after all.
“I see something that is pleasantly surprising,” senior guard Kyle Bosch said. “I didn’t think we could easily replace Adam Pankey, Toney Matteo, Marcell Lazard, Tyler Orlosky, all those guys. It’s pretty hard to replace all those special guys. And Matt Jones, Colton (McKivitz) are continuing to develop. Yodny is coming in and getting his head back in the game. Josh Sills coming back into. Grant (Lingafelter) is really embracing that senior leadership role and really getting to a point where he can be comfortable with that. And I think we are going to be a much better line than anticipated when I said goodbye to Tyler Orlosky and all those guys last year.”
During summer workouts, the offensive line is trying to bond and the veterans are trying to guide the underclassmen.
“We’re building that camaraderie, getting older guys to bring young guys along,”sophomore tackle Colton McKivitz said. “We’re a little low on tackles but it’s our job to get the younger guys up and going. It’s kind of like what Marcell (Lazard) did with me and some of the other guys, it’s our role to get those guys confident and work pretty hard to get stronger, faster, and all the things you prepare for upcoming camp.”
Currently, the new faces of the line seem to be catching on.
“They’re maturing pretty quickly,” McKivitz said. “They have a good understanding of the playbook. They’re starting to learn the major stuff pretty quickly and that’s helping them a lot. It’s all about getting stronger in the weight room and just seeing what the play looks like and how it works.”
Part of that doesn’t come from necessarily recruiting the big wigs but learning from within.
“At the end of the day recruiting an offensive lineman, you got better luck winning the lotto when it comes to guys,” Bosch said. “I got buddies that played in the NFL for six years and they were two star recruits coming out of high school and then I got guys that are five stars and they sat on the bench a long time.
“It’s definitely all about development and I think that’s a testament to Mike Joseph and what he does. And definitely coach (Ron) Crook and coach Wickline and how they brought all these guys into a centerpiece where we can have younger kids like Matt Joes coming in and really shaking up the entire front. It’s like holy cow this kid has really got his head on straight and paid attention. That’s another thing these young kids wanted to play and they paid attention in meetings and by them paying attention in meetings that’s 99 percent of playing the o-line, the mental aspect. So by them really honing in on their skills, they learned from our mistakes last year up front.”
Yearly changes from the conditioning program help the offensive linemen develop and mature.
“Mike Joseph and his staff do a really good job of implementing new techniques that he learns from around the country,” Bosch said. “They go to clinics every year, and they find new techniques that have a lot of critical backing and if they don’t have critical backing than they’re not going to do it. There’s some stuff we did my freshman year that they found new research that said ‘that may not be the best thing to do, this may be the best thing to do’ so we’re constantly changing our work out regime and our workout program to meet the modern day student-athlete.”
This summer has been no different.
“We started wearing these (bracelets), this is called a “Whoop” and basically it’s a system that monitors your heart rate, your sleep, how much strain you’re putting on your body,” Bosch added. “It’s a smart way for the coaches, the staff, and the players to see what they’re actual numbers are when it comes to they’re performance, they’re sleep, all the intangibles that make you’re a better athlete.”
Despite the new devices monitoring the athletes 24-7, none of the o-line feels like their personal space is being invaded.
“Right when we got these bands, right when we got this new program they said ‘anyone that doesn’t feel comfortable doing this you can hand it back in and we’ll give it to the next guy that wants it,” Bosch said. “Obviously none of us wanted to do that because were all committed to trying to win the Big 12, to trying make it to the College Football Playoff so we’re all taking this off season very seriously. Monitoring everything we do, everything we eat, and every time we fall asleep.”
This allows the coaching staff to make proper adjustments to benefit the athletes.
While the opener is over two months away, the offensive line is progressing better than expected due to the development of its members.
“We’re pretty confident, McKivitz said. “We’ll find out during camp and we will continue to build that and then week one we’ll find out.”