Under the direction of newly hired offensive line coach Ron Crook, West Virginia will look to replace the majority of its starters along the trenches this season. After a career that’s sprawled more than two decades, including stops at Harvard and his alma mater where it all began, Division II West Liberty College, near Wheeling, W.Va., Crook has worked his way up the coaching chain. From small time to big time, he’ll be front and center when it comes to reworking the players up front.
Crook was in charge of tight ends/tackles at Stanford last season and after former WVU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left to take the same position at Oklahoma, head coach Dana Holgorsen went out and hired him to be the line guru. Let’s take a look at what he’ll be working with as fall camp progresses.
The first order of business for Crook will be replacing center Joe Madsen. Madsen started all twelve games last season before being declared academically ineligible to play the in Pinstripe Bowl. He was a four-year starter and will be difficult to replace.
Pat Eger returns for what will be his final season in Morgantown as a redshirt senior. Coach Crook moved him from right guard to center during spring ball and word was that his snaps were all over the place, but WVU doesn’t have anyone with much more experience than Eger, so I would expect him to get the first shot at playing center. I’m not so sure this bodes well for the mountaineers if they have have to switch a redshirt senior right guard over to play center. The terminology is a bit different and Eger will have to make all the calls on the line. If he can step up to the challenge, there might not be much of an issue with replacing Madsen, but if he can’t, trouble could be brewing.
Center is one of the most important positions on the field and if Eger was struggling to make clean snaps during spring ball, what will happen when a Big 12 nose tackle is bearing down on him? This leaves me a bit weary about the center position. But then again anything could happen once the season gets underway.
What if Pat Eger can’t get the job done and the coaches must move him back to guard? The depth is shaky at this point, but redshirt freshman Tyler Orlosky, who moved from guard to center as well during spring ball, would probably be a good bet to go. Junior college transfer Stone Underwood from Copiah-Lincoln C.C. (Wesson, MS) could see some time; he was brought in to ensure depth and just may get a crack at it.
Other than Pat Eger, another player that is certain to start from day one is left tackle Quinton Spain. The massive 6-foot-5, 335-pound redshirt junior started all 13 games last season. I don’t see much of a problem here for WVU, as Spain should be just fine, if not dominant out there on the field with his size and experience. His spot really should be solidified before the season begins.
At left guard, the mountaineers will need to replace departed senior Josh Jenkins. A number of players could step in and take this spot. One candidate could be Marquis Lucas, a 6-foot-4, 312-pound redshirt sophomore. He saw action in the Kansas game last year and I do like his upside. Redshirt freshman Tony Matteo could get a look and redshirt sophomore Brandon Jackson didn’t see game action last year, but should add solid depth and could eventually see the field at some point this season.
At right tackle it looks like redshirt senior Curtis Feigt will get a shot at taking over the position. He’s played in 19 career games and started seven, so he does bring much needed experience to the table. Redshirt senior Nick Kindler, who’s played in 26 career games and started one, could be interchangeable and could step in at either tackle position. I definitely expect him to play quite a lot this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he gets the first start of the season against William & Mary.
The right guard position is up for grabs as well. WVU will need to find a replacement for Jeff Braun. I’m expecting redshirt junior Mark Glowinski to get a good chance. The coaching staff moved him over from tackle to guard during the spring. He’s a JUCO transfer from Lackawanna College and if nothing else he’ll add some depth. Russell Haughton-James should also have a chance to compete for the right guard spot; the redshirt sophomore saw action in two games last season before a right knee injury sidelined him for the season. There’s really no consensus as to who will start at right guard and not much experience returns, so the coaches will really need to examine how these guys look in camp. Competition for the starting spot could play out well into the season, let’s just hope it plays out well.
Other than the players I’ve mentioned for spots on the offensive line, there are some newcomers who might earn playing time. True freshman Marcell Lazard was a big time recruit for head coach Dana Holgorsen. At 6-foot-6, 293 pounds, Lazard was ranked No. 33 nationally by ESPN at his position, and Tom Lemming rated him among the top 25 offensive tackles in the country. If any starters stumble during the season, I would look for him to get his shot assuming he doesn’t redshirt, which is very possible.
Another nice recruit for Holgorsen was Tyler Tezeno out of Houston, TX. He’ll add nice depth if he doesn’t decide to redshirt as well. Scout.com rated him as the 16th best center prospect in the nation and WVU needs all the help they can get at center.
Overall, the line is really going to need time to gel this season with the departure of three starters. There’s plenty of hope and a good stable of promising talent to go around, but don’t expect anything extraordinary from this unit. They’ll need to shape up quick with an early season trip to Oklahoma looming on the horizon.