UP: WVU has a nice mix of experienced performers and up-and-coming challengers on the offensive line, and it's not hard to imagine veterans such as Pat Eger, Curtis Feigt and Quinton Spain becoming anchors and providing leadership to some of the redshirt freshmen and sophomores making their first serious challenges for playing time. Eger (center) is the most experienced of all the returnees, with 19 starts and 29 games, while Spain (left tackle) is right behind with 14 starts in 26 career games. Feigt (right tackle) has seven games worth of starting experience and has played in 19 contests, and has steadily improved after getting a late start in football as a junior in high school.
With these three laying the groundwork, WVU could fit in guards such as Mark Glowinski, Marquis Lucas, Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky or Russell Haughton-James into the starting lineup, and develop them without the pressure of having to play them on the edge or at center, where the responsibility for line calls lies. If the senior trio, along with Nick Kindler, who was battling with Feigt at right tackle, can handle those chores and help break the newcomers in, then West Virginia could have one of its better offensive lines of the past few seasons.
WVU also has more depth that could figure into the playing time battle, including juco center Stone Underwood and tackle Brandon Jackson. Their presence could help push the starters, and perhaps give the Mountaineers at least a modicum of depth this fall.
DOWN: While the offensive line does have some experience, a good bit of it came at different positions. Most notably, Eger has played most of his career at tackle and guard, and will be making his first appearance at center. Feight has also moved around a bit, and actually started his career on defense, which also slowed his development on the offensive line. Only Spain has been at his current position for his entire career.
That sort of shifting around isn't disastrous, but it does add to the time required to get familiar with the position, and in the development of the timing and choreography necessary for quality line play. Take, for example, Eger. He certainly knows all the plays, but he likely knows them more as a tackle than as a center. When a play call is made, he used to know it from the exterior line perspective. Now, he has to execute it as a center – and make the line calls for blocking assignments as well.
That's not to pick on Eger, but just to point out that position switches on the offensive line might be the most difficult in the game. Kindler will have to be proficient at both tackles, where he's listed on the depth chart, and Feigt will have to settle in and show the performance that his physical gifts show promise of. All the while, they will need to nurture their younger teammates. Is all that possible in the three-plus weeks of fall camp? And are those youngsters ready to contribute, and play 10-15 snaps, in the heat of Big 12 competition? If the answers aren't yes to all of these questions, West Virginia's offense might stall right out of the gate.
KEY ITEM: Developing chemistry and camaraderie is always important for the offensive front, but getting used to the demands and changes of a new coach will be even more critical this year. Upperclassmen such as Eger, Spain, Kindler and Feigt will be playing for their third different coach, and that has to be at least something of an adjustment as they go through another transition that started with Dave Johnson (2008-10), moved through Bill Bedenbaugh (2011-12), and culminates with Ron Crook. While there are basic concepts and similarities no matter what sort of blocking scheme is being taught, every coach has their own points of emphasis that he wants to see executed, and his own set of key techniques that are musts in order to avoid playing time.
In a reverse of the usual learning process, having a new coach might be more difficult for the veterans to adjust to than it is for youngsters, who haven't had the constant churn of coaching changes to deal with. That could make it a little easier for players such as Mark Glowinski and Tyler Orlosky, who are making their first serious pushes for playing time, to find a groove under new assistant Crook. It certainly doesn't knock the veterans out of the rotation, but it is something to watch as the battles for time on the field commence.
The veterans, though, still hold the key to this unit. Their ability to take coaching from yet another new coach, and put it into effect on the field, could be the difference between offensive success and failure in 2013. They had the chance to lay the groundwork in the spring, but now the clock is ticking as the opener approaches.