MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—West Virginia’s defense seems to be the biggest strength for the football team this upcoming season while the offense has several question marks.
One of the biggest questions for the Mountaineers is the strength of the offensive line.
Mark Glowinski and Quinton Spain were two key contributors in 2014 and both have graduated. Those are two big losses that will be hard for West Virginia to overcome.
But don’t count the Mountaineers out just yet.
The difference in this season’s line is the possibility of an eight man rotation.
“You would love to have that rotation and have the eight guys,” graduate assistant Zac Hueter said. “You want to have those extra three or four. We are struggling to have five more guys, a second team, to go in. I’ve seen things platoon-wise where they bring in five guys right off the bench. It brings new competition, because nobody’s spots are ever secured.
“That’s how it’s playing out right now with the same five guys you see, but people don’t see the competition that is going on behind closed doors. You don’t see guys pushing each other and making each other better.”
West Virginia should have no problem getting to eight this season.
“By the end of camp, we should be able to say here’s our eight, and that we have the ability to rotate them in for snaps this season,” Hueter said.
Tyler Orlosky is the leader of the offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 297-pound center has the best knowledge of the offensive schemes. He is constantly asking questions about the play calls.
Last season Orlosky helped pave the way for the offense to average 499.8 yards per game of total offense, 33.5 points per game, 182.8 rushing yards and 317.0 passing yards.
Marquis Lucas and Yodny Cajuste are emerging at the tackle position.
“They’re improving from a standpoint of recognizing things from the defense, which is critical, especially at that position, offensive line coach Ron Crook said. “ We bounced Adam Pankey out there for a little bit to practice and get reps. Sylvester Townes is coming along. Marcell Lazard has had a couple of nice days in a row. They’re all progressing as they should.”
“We feel confident in the direction that they’re going, and we’ll have at least three that are going to be ready.”
But Holgorsen doesn’t feel Lazard or Townes are quite ready.
“Marcell Lazard and Sylvester Townes haven’t developed yet,” he said. “They need to develop. We have a whole month for that to happen. Which guys take that next step, I don’t know.”
Former four-star Michigan recruit Kyle Bosch transferred to West Virginia during the spring and was granted immediate eligibility instead of having to sit out the normal first year.
The 6-foot-5, 318-pound junior is still learning the offense but is expected to contribute this season.
“He’s getting a lot of reps, so it’s helping him a lot,” Crook said. “He’s been progressing well. He brings the physical nature to our offense, which is important and every football coach likes to see that. I like the direction that he’s going.”
Cajuste is a redshirt freshman out of Mirmar who has been turning heads during camp.
“Yodny is way more advanced,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said on Wednesday afternoon. “Yesterday was the first day in pads, and he got exposed a little bit, which is common.”
“We can bump Pankey out, and we have the same starter we had last year. That’s going to be a viable option that will happen.”
Moving Pankey to left tackle, where he started last season would open the doors for Bosch to start at left guard.
The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Pankey is regarded as the best lineman on the squad. He started all 13 games last season and was used on 1,177 plays, including 1,092 offensive plays.
Matteo has played in several games as a reserve for the Mountaineers and started their regular season finale against Iowa State last season.
Currently, tackles Yodny Cajuste and Marquis Lucas, guards Adam Pankey and Tony Matteo and Orlosky would be the starting five.
Stone Underwood appears to be able to back up either at center or guard, but the Mountaineers already have a new quarterback. Is both a new quarterback and center a good idea?
This year’s offensive line has the makings to be one of the strongest units in recent years.