WVU football: Physical play must improve in 2018

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 26: Tyler Huntley
DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 26: Tyler Huntley /

On several occasions this season the offensive and defensive lines of the WVU football team seemed outmatched and overpowered by the opposition.

That was especially true in the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Utah. On the Utes first drive of the game, they dashed a hole through the line and ran across the field with ease. When West Virginia had the ball, the offensive line gave no push and failed to protect quarterback Chris Chugunov.

Something needs to happen in the offseason where the Mountaineers can prove they are the aggressor on both sides of the ball. There may be elite playmakers in certain positions but they do no good when they aren’t being protected. That was evident against Utah simply because Biletnikoff Award winner David Sills didn’t even record one catch.

On defense, the Mountaineers are a bit undersized but still show toughness. The first example of that is Lamonte McDougle who barely stands 5-foot-10 and was named an All-American. The Mountaineers have some talented offensive lineman who will be asked to carry the load next season like center Matt Jones and 6-foot-7 Colton McKivitz, both natives of Ohio. Yodny Cajuste is the most experienced lineman and he is returning even though he missed the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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The work to improve will have to start from within and coaches Joe Wickline and Bruce Tall and strength and conditioning coach Mark Joseph need to make the big guys better suited for these games. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was flat-out disgusted by those up front. In a story by Mitch Vingle in the Gazette-Mail he didn’t mince words.

"“Utah takes a lot of pride in being physical and we weren’t the physical team at all,” Spavital said. “We have a lot of work to do. We have to get that mentality back. We need to get back to work grinding these guys.”"

It’s hard to imagine Division I coaches being easy on their players, but something must be disconnecting within the WVU football program. The problem is out there but it needs to be addressed the best way possible. This offseason, that plan will be laid out because something needs done.

If it’s apparent that the Mountaineers are undermanned against Tennessee and North Carolina State early next season, it will show that nothing much has changed and that’s a big problem. West Virginia can’t be outplayed by a lowly SEC and ACC team. There’s some pride at stake and pride in being a physically and mentally tough program is important.

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The WVU football team may have lost its edge. This offseason the Mountaineers need to get it back and improve their image to the national media and the local fanbase.