That's a bit of a relief to Mountaineer fans, and perhaps some plays alike – none more so than left tackle Nick Kindler. The senior out of Camp Hill, Pa. had ben relegated to the second team before the coaching staff slid longtime starter Quinton Spain inside to tackle and elevated Kindler to the starting slot on he outside. It is, without question, no less than the second-most imperative slot along the line in college – arguably behind center – and considered the top-shelf assignment in the NFL.
Kindler, a 6-6, 298-pounder, has the size and feet to effectively hold down the slot, and is again expected to start when West Virginia travels to No. 17 Baylor (3-0) for an 8 p.m. kick on Saturday. It will be Kindler's third career start, counting last week and last season against No. 4Kansas State. That means Kindler has never started a game against a non-Top 20 foe, literally facing the best in the nation in any given start. He rated his play in the 30-21 win over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State as just average.
"My performance as just so-so," he said. "I'm never really happy about the way I played. You are pleased to an extent, but there are always things you can work on. I thought my run blocking was pretty good. I need to work on hand placement and a couple things technique-wise. Pass blocking was just so-so. I know I can do better than I did."
OSU's defense was among the better ones West Virginia has played this season, particularly its front. But Baylor might offer even greater team speed and, at least again the lesser competition the Bears have thus far faced, have shown the ability to rush the passer and get off the edge for sacks. It's an expected concern for the Mountaineers, who might not have mobile passer Clint Trickett because of a shoulder injury. The starter will be either Trickett or Millard, Dawson said, as Childress is not yet able to effectively throw.
"They are obviously a heck of a defense," Kindler said. "They have only let up a couple points in each game. They play hard, they play fast. They are ready for the fast game because of the offense Baylor runs. It's going to be tough; we are really going to have to be on our game. Heading into last week's game, it was what we usually talk about: Play hard, play every snap. If you mess up one snap here, forget about it because we have to move on and bring everybody with us. It's the same thing we reiterate every week. Last week we really had an emphasis on technique and playing hard."
West Virginia accomplished the latter, as its effort was significantly better than in the 37-0 blanking by Maryland. But the technique and other areas must be bettered, especially within the run game at times. Now that the starting five seems to be settling – barring injury – one hopes Kindler, Spain, center Pat Eger, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Curtis Feigt can begin to mesh.
"It's not too crazy for us; it's something we expect," Kindler said of the shuffling. "Myself and Pat (Eger) shuffle around and play both sides. I played both sides for the first weeks, and it depends upon what the defense throws at us. We have seven, eight, nine guys who are able to get into this rotation. With as many reps as we take in practice, continuity, the chemistry really is pretty good no matter what the combination of guys is.
"It was definitely improvement from the Maryland week because we really struggled that week and got away from what our mindset should be as an offensive line. Like I said, we are pleased with how we played in some aspects, but our technique and our assignments can always get better."
West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke, among the top edge rushers on the team who played among his best career games against Maryland, said he has been helped by facing Kindler when the former reserve was elevated to the starting five – even if that came in only a few series in which the starting units square off.
"There are about two periods we go ones versus ones, and Nick has been a guy that has been progressing since he has been here," Clarke said. "I know they are rotating some, and they are playing really well against our defensive line. We complement each other all the time, not just us against each other but all of us."