New offensive line coach – and Parkersburg native – Ron Crook has flipped the script, switching out former coach Bill Bedenbaugh's zone-only teachings in favor of a more direct approach: Power. No longer is WVU blocking a particular area. Now it's search and destroy; see defender, block defender. And both the backs and offensive linemen say it has made the holes more prevalent.
"It's us double-teaming the defensive guys more now than we used to," right tackle Curtis Feigt said. "It opens up holes a little bit faster and it increases the width of the seams so, for the backs, it's easier to hit. It's an advantage for them."
Crook coached tight ends and tackles in Stanford's pro-set, power run game, helping the Cardinal to consecutive BCS games and coaching arguably the best group of tight ends in the nation in 2011. He has brought that same smash mouth mentality to a place that, for much of head coach Dana Holgorsen's two-year tenure, hasn't had much of a sock'em, bust'em custom.
Feigt said the line splits have remained the same, but the focus is increasingly on blocking an individual player and less on blocking within a purely zone scheme. Feigt said there are still inside and outside zone reads and blocks, but the way WVU is blocking is "more of a double-team way.
"It gives us more momentum going towards the line when you have two guys going against one instead of just one-on-one," he said. "Me and the guard, or the guard and center will double-team, and that makes it easier to go toward the end zone and open the holes for the running backs."
One shouldn't surmise that this means West Virginia will somehow begin to showcase a myriad of power sets. The Mountaineers are going to continue spreading foes out and trying to create seams and mismatches in space. But don't be shocked to see an increasing reliance on the run, and for West Virginia to come off the ball a bit differently within the ground game. The idea will receive its first major test today, as the Mountaineers don full gear for the first time in their fifth practice session of the fall.
"The first day of (helmets and shoulder pads) was a little bit rusty, kind of lackadaisical," Feigt said. "Guys weren't really engaging in stuff. (Monday) was our second day in (some) pads and it was way more enthusiastic and powerful. Guys had fun out there. I'm looking forward to full contact today."
Of now, Feigt is teamed with Mark Glowinski on the right side, with Tyler Orlosky at center and Quinton Spain and Marquis Lucas at left tackle and guard, respectively. Crook said he has a solid starting five, and could go "seven deep right now," but would like to have nine to 10 by midseason.
"Everybody is pushing each other," said Pat Eger, who can fill in at any of the five spots as needed, but figures most prominently at left guard. "The ones, twos, threes. The backs. I'm not sure what coach (Dana) Holgorsen or coach (Shannon) Dawson wants to do, but as an offensive lineman, we love to run the ball. Any time we can get down and dirty and run the ball a bit, we are excited for that."
Running back Andrew Buie said he has embraced the change, calling it "better for us. It's a whole lot easier for us to make our reads and to play faster."
Buie, who rushed for a team-high 851 yards last year – including a career-high 207 at No.11 Texas –continues to battle fellow veteran Dustin Garrison (207 yards, two TDs last year) and newcomers Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith on what Dawson calls his deepest team ever. Sims, a 6-0, 213-pound transfer from Houston, has shown exceptional vertical burst in early practices a year after matching Buie's 851-yard output with 11 touchdowns to earn second-team Conference USA honors. Smith, 5-11, 217 pounds, ran for 984 yards and 17 scores at the junior college level in being named to the JC First Team Offense.