The West Virginia Mountaineers have a veteran offensive line entering the 2016 season and it could be the best unit in the Big 12 Conference.
Not only are the offensive lineman strong, big and physical, they are athletic enough to move with agility and command the line of scrimmage.
When Rick Trickett was the offensive line coach more than a decade ago, the Mountaineers consistently had the best all-around O-line in the Big East Conference. It has taken some time to regain their footing but, now, under the direct direction of offensive line coach Ron Crook, the Mountaineers have one of the best units in the Big 12, as well as the entire country.
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen has connected with Crook, a Parkersburg native, to revamp the team’s offensive scheme. Obviously, that starts up front. The Mountaineers were the second best running team in the Big 12 a year ago and they touted the conference’s top rusher in Wendell Smallwood.
This offseason, Holgorsen has added another offensive guru to the staff in former Texas assistant Joe Wickline. The coaches that are in place have years of experience and expertise and, now, have the personnel to be able to advance the offense even further in 2016.
Whether the Mountaineers plan to throw the ball more or stick to their successful running game, the offense will live or die by the O-line. The way things are shaping up, West Virginia may be living greater than ever within the Big 12.
Feldman says the addition of Wickline will just make matters even easier for Crook and Holgorsen.
“Dana Holgorsen has added a second O-line coach, bringing on Joe Wickline, who he had a great working relationship with Oklahoma State, to coach the tackles and tight ends coaches, and that should be a big plus,” penned Feldman. “The interior of this line is already terrific.”
Four starters return on the offensive line. They include preseason All-American Tyler Orlosky (a heckuva starting point for the Mountaineers, said Feldman). There’s Michigan transfer Kyle Bosch who (played well at RG, said Feldman) and Adam Pankey who (will handle the other guard slot).
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Feldman mentions that Yodny Cajuste was a former prep basketball standout but makes his mark on the football field.
Cajuste is “an athletic OT with long arms and terrific feet,” according the Feldman. “The staff thinks he has a bright future.”
Finally, Marcell Lazard rounds out the starting five. Feldman called him a “question mark,” but Lazard was pencilled into the starting lineup on a few occasions last season. Smallwood even praised Lazard for his work on the line.
Expectations may be down for the Mountaineers this season as the early media poll picked them sixth in the Big 12. However, the offensive line is setting the bar high for their unit. It’s up to them to strengthen the entire offense as whole and raise the expectation level for the rest of the team.
The only offensive lines ranked above the Mountaineers, according to Feldman are Clemson, LSU and Alabama.