Improved Line Play Should Lead To More Balance For West Virginia In 2016

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia took on a new identity last year as Dana Holgorsen's air raid offense turned into one of the most run-heavy units in the Big 12 conference. This year the offense is looking to get back to its roots and take a more balanced approach, which begins up front with improved pass protection from the offensive line.

Starting right guard Kyle Bosch echoed many of the comments that have been made by West Virginia's offensive personnel since the beginning of fall camp, saying the Mountaineers are placing an emphasis on becoming a more balanced offense in 2016. Although the Mountaineers were one of the better running teams in the country last season, Skyler Howard was sacked 32 times, which was the second highest total in the Big 12. Bosch, who is entering his second season with the Mountaineers, already sees improvement in pass protection and credits the addition of Joe Wickline as a big factor.

"(Wickline) has really adapted to our scheme and refined it to what he knows best," Bosch said. "He's got a lot of experience and he's a very intelligent guy so it's very helpful having another set of eyes in our room."

The Mountaineers have employed a somewhat unique strategy in having two offensive line coaches and Bosch said that's crucial because having another set of eyes gives them more time to focus on getting their proper technique down.

"If (Ron) Crook doesn't see it then (Wickline) sees it," Bosch said. "If (Wickline) doesn't see it, then Crook sees it. It's a lot easier to reassure yourself and get that technique down that you need to be successful."

Although West Virginia may be more balanced this year Bosch says fans need not worry about the Mountaineers being any less physical.

"We're going to be more balanced this year," Bosch said. "But we're going to have that same grit that we had last year - coming off of the ball, getting yardage and making holes for the running back is still going to progress as the season goes on."

One reason why the Mountaineers still expect to open up big holes in the run game is he depth they are starting to develop behind the starting five. One of the unsung heroes along the line is versatile fifth-year senior Tony Matteo, who regularly goes between guard and center, and should expect to see plenty of snaps in the fall. Matteo says that going between the two positions doesn't pose a big challenge since he is so experienced at playing both positions.

"I used to play center all the time," Matteo said. "I played it for six years so I'm used to it and I can play both easily. I have played more guard in games, but I played center my first few years here and I play it a lot in practice. I don't really think about anything differently, it's pretty easy to go back and forth."

Even though the Mountaineers' offensive line has received plenty of preseason hype by various media outlets Matteo still displays the blue collar attitude that good linemen usually possess and says the line still has a ways to go if it wants to improve on last years performance.

"I don't know if (the offensive line) is better or not" Matteo said in response to a question about how the unit had improved. "I think we're just working every day to get better. I wouldn't say it's better or worse. We'll see how it is after 12 games."

When asked how the unit can improve Matteo lamented that it's all about giving the same maximum effort day in and day out.

"Some days it's hard during camp," Matteo said. "You're tired, you're hurt. I think coming in every day and getting through everything is the main job right now."


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