WVU's offensive line will change things up this week to try to find chemistry

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Behind a new-look offensive line, running back Wendell Smallwood could be the key to the game for West Virginia against Texas Tech Saturday.

Once again tasked with taking on one of the best offenses in the country in Texas Tech Red this week, West Virginia's best bet might be to lean on junior running back Wendell Smallwood.

While the Mountaineers’ offense as a whole has struggled to be consistent this year, Smallwood has been a steady force, rushing for over 100 yards in four of WVU’s last five games.

With a matchup against Texas Tech’s 124th ranked run defense this weekend, Smallwood said he could have plenty of chances to impact the game as WVU will look to exploit that matchup, while trying to keep the Red Raiders’ potent offense off the field.

“I think there will be a lot of opportunities against them the way their defense has been playing, but their offense is pretty good too and has been putting up a lot of points. That’s going to put pressure on us to put points on the board too,” he said.

As would be expected from any running back, Smallwood said he would relish the opportunity to control the game on the ground this weekend, despite that not being as entertaining a brand of football that West Virginia fans have gotten used to since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12.

“I would love that, just keep running the ball against them….It might be boring for the fans but as long as we’re moving the ball and getting it going I wouldn’t mind it,” he said.

Smallwood will look to extend his streak of quality outings behind a new-look offensive line. With redshirt freshman Yodny Cajuste’s injury, head coach Dana Holgorsen said there will be some changes along the line this week that he hopes will help the unit perform at a higher level.

“(Yodny Cajuste) is still day-to-day. We are going to change some things again this week. We have to play a little bit better up front. I thought (Tyler Orlosky) T.O. came back and was better. T.O., in his defense, he was really hurt against Baylor. He did not look good. The week off was good for him. He played well against TCU. With that said, we will keep juggling some things around to get guys into position where they can be successful,” he said.

Over the course of the next few practices, Holgorsen and offensive line coach Ron Crook will look to find the best combination of five linemen to trot out against Texas Tech.

“I don’t know what that is going to be exactly. We will experiment with it today and tomorrow to get to that point. That will definitely mean personnel changes. We have Stone Underwood who hasn’t played a ton. We have Marcell Lazard and Grant Lingafelter. Those two guys will get looks today to see where they fit in,” Holgorsen said.

According to Crook, Lingafelter and Lazard have shown marked improvement over the course of the season, putting them in position to fight for an increased role along the line.

“They’ve been improving all along. I’m excited about the direction they’re going. Again, it’s about the best mix; who plays best together. Those decisions probably won’t be made until late in the week,” Crook said.

WVU’s offensive line has seen its ups-and-downs this season, but Crook is hopeful he can find the best mix along the line to create chemistry that will allow the group to gel and improve.

“It’s part chemistry, it’s part just who performs better on that given day. We’ve seen good stuff out of all those guys out there. We’re not in a panicked situation. We’ve played better on the o-line. I think our pass protection has been better. I think we only gave up one sack this past week, so the guys have improved individually. We’ve improved as a group. It’s just, again, finding who is the best five to have beside each other,” Crook said.

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