Skip to main content

West Virginia is heading into week three of fall camp, and there is optimism surrounding the offensive line – a group that has struggled to find depth in the first two years under head coach Neal Brown.

“It’s the first year I’ve really had a true competition,” said offensive line coach Matt Moore before noting that there’s some competition along the o-line “instead of just trying to find five guys.”

West Virginia returns three of their five starters from a year ago, losing center Chase Behrndt and right guard Michael Brown to graduation. 

Zach Frazier will take over at center. He started the 2020 season opener for a suspended Behrndt as a true freshman before taking over starting duties at left guard for James Gmiter, who missed time due to COVID-19 related issues.

At right guard, the staff brought in Virginia Tech Doug Nester to fill the void, but redshirt freshman Jordan White developed faster than expected, and the two have been splitting reps at right guard. All three interior offensive linemen have been rotating during fall camp. Gmiter has taken snaps at left guard and center. Doug Nester and White have played at both guard positions, with White also getting reps at center. Then, Nick Malone has slid down to left guard but has not yet put himself in the mix.

Offensive line coach Matt Moore

Offensive line coach Matt Moore.

Brandon Yates returns at left tackle after starting all 10 games last season as a redshirt freshman. Ja’Quay Hubbard has been taking reps with the second team. Moore noted he has completely changed his body in his second year in the program and plays with an “unbelievable effort.” This is the only spot there is some concern with depth because of youth. The staff is high on Hubbard but still makes mistakes due to inexperience.

The biggest competition comes at right tackle. 2020 started John Hughes returns, but redshirt sophomore Parker Moorer and freshman Wyatt Milum have surpassed Hughes and have been splitting reps.

“Wyatt’s really come in and done a really good job of knowing the offense and just playing with outstanding effort, and Parker has made himself way better in the last year,” said Moore.

Currently, Moore feels like he has seven guys he’s comfortable putting on the field, with Hubbard potentially working to become the eighth in the final week of fall camp.

Read More

Ideally, the staff would like the number to be double digits, upwards of twelve that can take the field and not significantly drop production. 

“I do like how we're practicing,” said Brown. “I think that they've had, really, by far the best winter and summer they've had since we've been here - I think there is really good leadership upfront with Zack Frazier leading the way. I think there's great continuity and chemistry between those top seven guys, eight guys.”

IMG_6322

With more stability upfront, the staff can hopefully open up the playbook. Moore noted that the offensive coaching staff has catered to the offensive line deficiencies, and they were able to hide them with play calling. Moore also added that having a head coach that understands that “it’s a process” to build a championship offensive line makes it a little easier.

Now, they may have an opportunity to do some things offensively that they haven’t been able to in the first two years.

“We hope we can be well rounded in the run game - we really protected our tackles last year,” said Brown. “So, hopefully, we can do a little bit more than we've done the first two years. That's the hope. I think our talent is improved, and we're stronger. Are we strong enough? To be determined, but like I said, I like those kids, I really do. And I think that anytime you have a group that's got some grit up front, then you got a chance, and they do. Now, we may get outmanned and a couple of times, but we're in the process of getting where we need it to be.”

Overall, the staff is excited about this group despite feeling they may be a year away from having the depth and talent they need to be a consistent conference championship contender. 

“I’m really excited about this group. I think we’ve got the highest ceiling we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Moore. “We’re not there yet. We’re a little bit up and down. Sometimes we really, really look good, and sometimes we don’t look as good.” 

You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us Twitter:

Facebook - @WVUonSI

Twitter - @WVUonSI and Christopher Hall @WVHallBilly