Mountaineer Line: Better Trust, Cohesion

Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson once instructed players to envision being “a frog on a lily pad.” It was his way of transfusing a state of inner calm mixed with unity.

And while West Virginia offensive line coach Ron Crook is apt to utilize more simplistic language – “I like the way they look and how they’re mentally focused,” he said last weekend – it seems the varying vocabulary is yielding similar starting five results.

“It seemed like today, even we were almost surprised how everything was starting to fit together, even the second team,” right guard Mark Glowinski said. “Since I have been playing, I think we have molded. It’s cohesive. Watching film, it seems like it’s going through everybody. Technique and finishing blocks was something that stuck out as a positive thing.”

And though there aren’t likely any Scottie Pippens, to say nothing of a Jordanesque talent, this Mountaineer line is even now showing noticeably more aptitude than it was at the end of last season. That might seem a baby step to some, but the leap could become quite the sizeable one by the end of camp. The proverbial light has come on, the sledding’s downhill. This group, if it hasn’t hit stride quite yet, is rapidly gaining in its ability to fire as one, to understand the nuances of one another, and how to formulate the whole as the sum of more than its parts.

“I think we trust each other more,” center Tyler Orlosky said. “Last year, we had guys we rotated in and out. When you have that, you’re not performing as an entire line so much. We became more of a unit. (My confidence) is higher than it was last year. It’s definitely something that I have worked on and it’s a big part of the game.

“It’s helped a lot. We trust Coach Crook a lot. We know what he wants; we understand what he wants. He trusts us a lot more and he understands what we are capable of. Some things are the same, but obviously he brought with him some power, which (former WVU and current Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh) didn’t do much of.”

The errant snaps of 2013 have given way to solid consistency a year later. There are five surefire starters, and arguably the best pair of guards in the Big 12 in Glowinksi and the mountain of a man that is 6-5, 332-pound Quinton Spain. Orlosky has the perfect center’s personality, akin to the driver of a four-man bobsled team. He has to understand the landscape of his team and the opponent more so than any other, his the most mentally and physically taxing of positions.

There’s more size, more young talent and more credence to head coach Dana Holgorsen’s conviction that, position for position, the Mountaineers are better in every phase than they were last year even after replacing three fifth-year starters. It also helps that, for 40 percent of the starters and two-deep, they're being coached by the same assistant in consecutive seasons for the first time in their collegiate careers.

“The guys we have slotted into the starting five right now have all played a lot of football,” Crook said. “I feel really good about where those guys are at and feel really good about the potential.”

He better. West Virginia is mixing in a far greater amount of power run plays than it did in Holgorsen’s initial campaign, in 2011. That plays to the skillset and make-up of the line and backfield, and should fit this offense while providing greater protection of oft-injured quarterback Clint Trickett.

“When I came in as a freshman, we had three NFL players that performed very well in the passing game,” Orlosky said of Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Ram wideouts Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin “Running wasn’t as important then as it is now. We rely more on the run than we have. The offensive line is playing better as a unit now. We have tremendous talent at running back, and you want the talent to have the ball. That’s going to be a big key to the game this year.”

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