After the first three games of the season the West Virginia offensive line has played near flawlessly, only allowing one sack (that really wasn't a sack) and paving the way for Mountaineer running backs Rushel Shell (4.9 ypc) and Justin Crawford (5.2 ypc), who are two of the top six leading rushers in the Big 12 conference. This week though, the Mountaineer line will have its hands full with Kansas State, who boasts No.1 defense in the nation. Joe Wickline, who works with the tackles and tight ends, may be new to the Mountaineers coaching staff, but he is not new to the prospect of playing Kansas State. The veteran line coach spoke at length about what makes it so tough to move the ball on the Wildcats' defense.
"They're very very good at what they do," Wickline said. "They play very hard year after year and they just refill roles. It's next guy up. We have been impressed with coach Snyder and his staff and what they have done defensively because they just keep doing it. There aren't many down years for those guys, they just have a great bunch."
And what makes the KSU defense even more impressive is that what they do isn't over-complicated. The Wildcats don't run too many exotic blitzes or show a myriad of looks to confuse opposing quarterbacks, they simply line up and execute. They're not a -
"I guess the term would be a 'sexy defense,' or something that's out of the ordinary" Wickline said. "Maybe we're doing a bunch of three down games and we're walking around and we're all standing up - which is all good because it changes up what you do. But to be able just to line up in this coverage, and they do blitz and they do change things, and to do it year after year is pretty amazing."
In fact the running theme with Mountaineer players and coaches has been discussing how disciplined the WIldcats are and Wickline says that discipline carries over into the other areas of the game as well for Kansas State.
"I think the very basic foundations and principles of football," Wickline said when asked what the Wildcats do well. "Staying ahead of the chains, time of possession, no turnovers, let the other guy make the mistake, let the other team march the long field, win the kicking game and tackle well. All of the things you can do as a coach, they get it done. It's a big challenge for our guys. You have to say 'look, it's going to have to be a mistake free game.' We don't have drives to make a mistake and they press you. They're a unique bunch."
While Wickline discussed the fundamental aspects of Kansas State defense ad what makes them so good, Ron Crook dove into what the Wildcats do schematically and how West Virginia will try to block the KSU four man front.
"The number one thing you always talk about is where you can get double teams no matter what scheme you run," Crook said. "With the four man front it's generally right up the middle on the tackle so we're always looking at how we can create double teams and get two guys on one to get push off the ball. With these guys if you don't two guys on one it's going to be hard to get movement."
Crook also spoke about Kansas State's personnel on the defensive side of the football.
"It's almost like a recording," Crook said. "These guys in the middle are big and they're hard to move. They're very experienced. On the edges they're athletic and their linebackers are athletic and strong. They play with great pad level, they have great explosion into you It's going to be another great test and we love playing these kind of games. This kind of game is what competitive people look forward to."
In addition to speaking on KSU's personnel, Crook fielded some questions about West Virginia's line rotations. Particularly, the move that Adam Pankey made to left tackle, where he started for the first time since 2014, in Saturday's contest.
"I think (Pankey) was prepared (to move back to tackle)," Crook said. "I think he anticipated that that may happen and we wanted to get him back into the flow first and let him get a game under his belt and once that happened it seemed like it was the best thing for us. Usually when you put it into the context of 'this is what the team needs you to do' then none of them have issues with it."
Pankey's move to tackle wasn't much of a surprise and was speculated about after Yodny Cajuste tore his ACL in the first game of the season. What was surprising was how well Pankey played after he had played very sporadically in the spot in years past. The move gives the Mountaineers more chances to ease Colton McKivitz into games as he rotates with Marcell Lazard at the right tackle spot and comes in as a tight end in heavy sets for short yardage situations.null