Depth gives WVU options on O-line

AP photoWVU center Tyler Orlosky anchors an offensive line that head coach Dana Holgorsen said is as deep as any he’s had in Morgantown.

Run into any fan on the street wearing a West Virginia football hat, and there’s a 90 percent chance he or she will be able to tell you the quarterback’s name. The chances of that individual being able to name a couple receivers and a running back is probably 70 percent.

Naming the starters on the offensive line is a little more challenging for an average fan.

Football coaches, though, will tell you that any good offense starts with a good offensive line. Without holes for the running backs to hit or time for the quarterback to throw, even the most talented skill players are going to struggle.

That’s been a concern for Dana Holgorsen-coached WVU offenses in the past. With names like Kevin White, Mario Alford, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Geno Smith and Charles Sims on the field, the Mountaineers have had the playmakers. When the offense has struggled, it’s usually been a result of problems up front.

That’s why Holgorsen sounded almost giddy Tuesday when discussing his offensive line. It’s not the experience that had him smiling from ear to ear at his weekly press conference — right guard Kyle Bosch and left tackle Yodny Cajuste will be making their first WVU starts Saturday, Bosch a Michigan transfer and Cajuste a redshirt-freshman — but rather depth. For the first time since taking over in Morgantown in 2011, Holgorsen believes enough game-ready linemen to rotate throughout the game and keep guys fresh.

“Probably more so than any point since I’ve been here,” he said of his confidence in a rotation.

Having versatile linemen, Holgorsen said, is key to that rotation.

Senior Stone Underwood, a guy Holgorsen identified as having had a great camp, is the backup to All-Big 12 candidate Tyler Orlosky at center, but he can also play guard. Junior Tony Matteo, who recently lost out to Bosch in a competition for right guard, can play both guard spots. Junior Adam Pankey, who will start at left guard, played tackle a year ago and is ready to slide back out at any time if needed. Grant Lingafelter, a sophomore, can play both guard and tackle, and Marcell Lazard, Holgorsen said, has recently made big strides.

That give the Mountaineers plenty of options.

“Bosch has never taken a snap here, and Yodny has never taken a snap here,” said Holgorsen. “So let’s not get ahead of ourselves and say that we are the best offensive line unit in the world. But with the eight or nine guys, I feel more comfortable rotating people now than I have in the past.”

Exactly how that rotation will work, Holgorsen said, is still a work in progress.

“You have to just do it,” he said, explaining that it’s often difficult to resist the temptation of thinking that the continuity is good and being afraid to mess that up. “We are going to rotate in, and we are going to keep people as fresh as we possibly can.”

• • •

Holgorsen admitted Tuesday he’s tired of talking about depth charts. He’s exhausted from looking at position battles, and one more Georgia Southern game film could push him over the edge. It’s time for a game.

“Our players, I know, are ready for this Saturday,” said Holgorsen, whose team will host Georgia Southern that evening at 7:30 p.m., in a game that will air live on ROOT Sports. “Coaching wise, we are ready for this Saturday. There is only so much you can write and talk about without having a full game under our belt.

“I’m anxious to see them play. I’m anxious to see our guys. We know what our plan is on all three sides of the ball. I can’t wait to turn them loose and watch them play. I want to see how they are going to react.”

— E-mail: chuffman and follow on Twitter


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