"Watch out for us trying to get to the playoffs," Bosch said. "We had the ability, we had the talent last year. There was just a few games last year - Oklahoma State being one of them - that still (doesn't sit well) with a lot of us. We want to progress to a point where we can get to the top spots and get to the playoffs."
If that reads as a bit of a stretch, if not outright absurd, well, that's the way Bosch wants it. The junior didn't sign with the winningest program of all-time out of high school because he doubted his ability. The Michigan transfer came in to West Virginia and immediately snapped up the starting role at right guard, making an impact on an offense that produced 34 points per game and the Big 12's top rusher in Wendell Smallwood. Now, the rising junior sees the surrounding talent, and instead of choosing to ask why, simply demands an answer to why not.
There are plenty of reasons, of course. Smallwood declared for the NFL draft. So did starting corner Daryl Worley. The defense lost seven other starters, and has several others missing spring drills because of injuries or offseason surgery. It's two specialists are gone for at least the first three games, the Mountaineers needing to replace Nick O'Toole in his entirety and placekicker Josh Lambert for at least the nonconference portion of the schedule. Then there's the Big 12 schedule - the out of conference seems manageable with both BYU and Missouri replacing head coaches - which has WVU facing nemesis Kansas State first, with a TCU chaser as the next home game. And that's not even delving into contests against Oklahoma and Baylor in two of the final three games of the season.
"Wherever you go in college football, you're going to have talent," Bosch said. "It's how you use it, and I think we are really doing well using our talent. I have full faith in our coaching staff. They know what they're doing. ... It's like with puzzle pieces. These guys are putting it together.
It's a rather idyllic response, and one that perhaps got a bit more grounded when Bosch was asked about his progression over the last 13 months. The Illinois native detailed his familiarity and experience within the system, his ability to read keys as needed and the unit as a whole. Position coach Ron Crook has continued to shuffle the line-up, sliding Tony Matteo, Amanni Brown and Colton McKivitz, among others, around the core starting five of Yodny Cajuste, Adam Pankey, Tyler Orlosky, Bosch and Marcell Lazard, from left to right.
"We've put an emphasis on getting a better in pass protection," Bosch said. "Last year, offensively, we ran the ball great. Skyler (Howard) got hit a few too many times and that falls on all of us. We've all said, as a line, that's unacceptable. We need to get to a point where sacks can be limited as much as possible. It's experience and trust. Last year I didn't start working with Tyler because I couldn't play until two weeks before the season (due to transfer rules). So we didn't get that trust through spring ball. Through the season we gained that trust and started to form a bond. We have a nice cohesion on the line. We all trust each other and know where we are supposed to be."
There's little question the line has potential. Orlosky and Bosch are high level players. Pankey is back at his more natural position of guard. Cajuste has the frame and wingspan to develop into a very solid blindside protector, and Lazard's mentality and physical gifts, combined with his steady progression as a sophomore last season have WVU primed to showcase its best total front five in years. Add that to a series of receivers with big play ability, including Shelton Gibson, Ka'Raun White, Gary Jennings and Daikiel Shorts, along with running back Rushel Shell and an exciting newcomer in Kennedy McKoy, and the offense appears as potentially potent as any time since the days of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith.
The unit has also benefited, as any position would, from having an added coach in Joe Wickline. The offensive coordinator and line mentor has worked with the tackles and tight ends, allowing Crook to focus on the interior play of guards and tackles. That has allowed for additional individual attention before the coaching staff oversees the entire unit in more full scale work.
"They've bought in to what we are talking about," Crook said. "It's all about them going out and executing."
Take a listen below as Crook discusses the play of Orlosky, the line's anchor, and speaks to the effort on pass protection and the techniques that must improve.
"I don't think I'm letting the cat out of the bag (saying that)," Crook said. "We are working different techniques and stuff like that. If something doesn't work you're crazy if you keep trying to make it work without trying to change something. So we have changed technique a little bit. But again I think it's more them buying in to it and focusing on it and practicing it more."