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Above West Virginia offensive line coach Ron Crook provides an update on the progress of his unit and how they are coming along this spring. Crook credits the challenge of going up against an aggressive defense that disguises blitzes every day in practice as one of the critical factors to the group's success.
"Our defense does a really good job of hiding things - blitzes, twists, everything," Crook said. " The good thing is our line has some depth as well so we're recognizing things well but they never make it easy on us. Sometimes I think they have 13 guys out there because they have so many guys blitzing. They make it tough on us, but it's going to help us a lot down the road."
One recurring theme this off-season has been the depth and experience that the Mountaineers have returning on the offensive line for the 2016 season. Crook says that the depth gives the Mountaineers an opportunity to move some players around and experiment with different line-ups. Most notably, Amanii Brown is getting some looks at guard and Tony Matteo is getting some reps at center. Crook stated that different players knowing how to play different positions is important to the overall development of the offensive line.
Crook also praised sophomore tackle Yodny Cajuste and said he looks much more comfortable this spring.
"He's understanding things better," Crook said. "He's understanding his body position a lot better, which is critical. He's allowing himself to play more now as opposed to having to think about what he has to do. He can react a lot quicker and that's through having a couple of years in this offense."
Crook alluded that he is pleased with the overall progress that his offensive line has made, but he also admitted that the group has a long way to go and will need to continue building and developing.
Senior offensive lineman Adam Pankey spoke about the benefits of having two experienced coaches work with the offensive line this spring. Along with offensive line coach Ron Crook, Joe Wickline has been helping the tackles and tight ends. Pankey said splitting the line in to two groups helps the group break down basic techniques and focus more on fundamentals.
Pankey is one of the most experienced and versatile offensive lineman that the Mountaineers have returning, as he's played both tackle and guard and started 25 career games. Despite the fact that the two positions require different responsibilities, they don't require different techniques.
"It's always just about the first step, knowing where you're going, getting where you need to be and getting to the play side," Pankey said. "That's usually the biggest thing that's harped on and its been harped on since I got here."
Pankey also spoke about the emphasis the line has placed on pass protection in the spring. In practice the line worked against several different blitz packages and staying true to their fundamentals when battling pressure.
"We're really working on keeping our heads back and keeping a firm base so we're not lunging all over the place," Pankey said. "We're seeing up to eight guys in the box. It's not uncommon for us to see that in games when people bring a cover zero blitz and it's more about sliding one way or the other, making sure we know where the free guy is coming from."
Joe Wickline spoke about the depth that the Mountaineers have accumulated on the offensive line and the position battles that are occurring at different positions. Wickline also echoed Ron Crook's comments about Yodny Cajuste and credited the Mountaineer strength staff for the improvement Cajuste has shown this spring.
Wickline also shared his thoughts on veteran center Tyler Orlosky and how much it means to have a talented and experienced center to anchor the offensive line.
"I think he's a very talented player and he knows that," Wickline said. "He understands that he's been in the war and he's a general out there. He's going to play at the next level and he wants to coach. It's important to him."