More so than any other position in football, offensive linemen need to be mentally strong to succeed. If you watch games in late November and early December when temperatures dip below freezing you can typically observe that the guys in the trenches usually don't have any kind of heat gear under their pads, a testament to their mental fortitude. So it should come as no surprise that West Virginia offensive line coaches Ron Crook and Joe Wickline won't hear any excuses about the humid August weather factoring into the offense's sub-par performance on Saturday. Wickline, a veteran offensive coach who spent last August in Austin, Texas welcomes the heat and considers it an imperative part of fall camp.
"You schedule practices on these days," Wickline said. "You schedule them at a certain time, you schedule it to give a feel because everything changes. Guys react to things differently so basically you press them. You get mental toughness and physical toughness and that's part of the game. The good news is we're not the lone ranger, that's happening everywhere on every single field at every level. Our guys have done a really good job handling that but they need to understand it's not a three day on, one day off gig."
And there is no doubt that Saturday's scrimmage seemed like an off day for the Mountaineers first offensive unit. The first team offense put together one scoring drive (that resulted in a field goal) in 10 series and committed four turnovers. Crook, who is also a veteran offensive line coach, wasn't having any of it when asked about whether the heat played a role in some of that for the offense.
"We're not going to use anything as an excuse," Crook said. "We didn't play well offensively and we didn't execute. That's something we have to improve."
It's probably unfair to scrutinize the offense for just one bad day on Saturday because it's fall camp and those days happen on practice fields throughout the country. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson even admitted the offense had been getting after the defense in the days leading up to Saturday's scrimmage. But, that being said, it is vital that the Mountaineers offense have a much better outing when the Missouri Tigers come to town. Crook discussed what will best prepare the offense going forward to avoid having off days like the one the unit had on Saturday.
"Every thing we do is important," Crook said. "But I would say there is nothing more important than live reps and getting out there and playing football. That's what we do on game day, that's why we try to put (the players) in these situations and scrimmages - to go out there and play real football. We're not out there in the middle of the huddle coaching them. You have got to go play."
The offense will have two more scrimmages to simulate live game action over the next two weeks leading into Labor Day weekend. Crook implied he would need to see the film before he could correct all of the mistakes made by his unit, but he did share his initial impressions of the offense's struggles.
"We weren't executing offensively and guys couldn't get in a groove," Crook said. "There could be 30 reasons for it or there could be one reason for it. You always know a lot more after you watch the film."
It's not time to hit the panic button yet, but if the offense fails to perform at a higher level in the next two scrimmages it could be cause for concern. Crook discussed how rare it is to see a mediocre week of practice lead to a great performance in a game.
"We tell people all of the time, there's really no such thing as a gamer," Crook said. "There have been few times in my career that I have seen a guy play really good on game day that didn't practice leading up to it."