WVU O-Line Ready to Surprise Doubters

West Virginia's starting center Joey Madsen listened when fans called the offensive line the team's weakness in 2010. He continued to pay attention this spring and over the summer, as many of the preseason magazines and prognosticators said similar things of the Mountaineers' line.

Much-maligned would be about right.

Madsen has one thing to say to all of them: don't doubt us.

"A lot of people were on us, saying we were the weakest part of the team. Last year's thing with us was that people were trying to call us out," Madsen said. "Now, we're trying to be the unit that they look at and say, ‘hey, that's a pretty good offensive line.'" Those who believe it, though, are likely in the majority. The offensive line went through an injury-filled offseason, and outside of the running back position is the least experienced unit on offense.

Starters at left tackle, Donnie Barclay, and left guard, Jeff Braun, had offseason shoulder surgery and missed all of spring practice. In addition, the projected starter at left guard, Josh Jenkins, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Mountaineers' spring game and hurt the unit's depth significantly.

On the other side of the line will be two first-time starters with right guard Tyler Rader and right tackle Pat Eger.

"It's their first starts, but Rader is older and he's been around and seen stuff. You're always going to have younger guys in the mix," Barclay said. "Last year, we had some new guys. You've just got to have confidence in those guys that they'll step up; because not every year will you have seniors across the line. They'll do their job, and we have confidence in them to do it, so we'll be fine."

As a whole, the line is a bit more confident. The players believe the reason for that is a newfound identity taught by coach Bill Bedenbaugh.

"We're trying to shove the ball down people's throats and throw it over their heads and do whatever it takes to get into the end zone," Madsen said. "I think we're a lot more physical and ready to come off the ball and get after people."

Bedenbaugh said he's always tried to develop a "tough" mentality for his lines in the past. And WVU was no different.

"You have an identity as a team, and I think you have to have an identity as an offense and as each individual," he said. "It's not just going out and being able to beat somebody up. Toughness is being able to focus on your assignment and technique throughout the entire game and being tough and physical in finishing your blocks. That's kind of what we want to establish."

The offensive line will get an early test when it goes up against Marshall's defensive line on Sunday to open the season.

The Thundering Herd feature one of the nation's best pass rushing specialists in Vinny Curry. He was fifth in the nation in sacks with 12 last year and had a fantastic performance against the Mountaineers in 2010.

Curry finished with seven tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in the game. He wreaked havoc on Braun for much of the game, as Braun gave up a sack in the second quarter and struggled to keep up with the speedy Curry for much of the game.

This line is better prepared and more confident to take on the challenge this year, Braun said.

"Marshall has a good defensive line last year. That's one of the strong points of their team," Braun said. "I think we're ready, though. We need some guys to get some game experience and to have some live rounds thrown at them. I know they'll do well."

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