Where previously the team was content to play the waiting game, see which players might mix in at varying positions, line coach Joe Wickline said he would like to establish a starting five going into the summer, if for no other reason than to lock in the primary positions for players, and begin to mold them more toward those specific roles. That, Wickline said, can then be built upon during the offseason and fall camps before thoughts turn toward any sort of position shuffling.
"Anybody's goals, first of all, is to establish who your guys are," Wickline said. "Where are we as far as their roles? Are they a guy who can help you on the first team, second team? Are they better? In my scenario we try to locate our five starters and then the next step during this process is to develop players and find a third guard who can rotate either side, a third tackle, and another center. The next thing is to implement the basic blocking schemes, the runs, the basic cadences, the check-offs and all the adjustments. You implement and hopefully they keep getting better and eventually things formulate. We are a million miles away right now, but they are making strides."
Of now, the first five are Matt Jones at center, Kyle Bosch at left guard (moving over from right), Grant Lingafelter at right guard and Colton McKivitz at right tackle. Yodny Cajuste, the projected starter at left tackle, continues to work back from his second ACL tear in as many seasons, while back-up Marcell Lazard has left the program. That left the position largely open, with an eye on players like Josh Sills and Ja'HShaun Seider. That shuffle, as well as the battles for both the starting positions and the primary reserves, will continue through the Gold-Blue spring game on April 15.
Wickline also noted that getting to 10-plus players who can contribute an a high level is unlikely. That has been a rarity at the majority of places he has coached, including the majority of seasons at Ole Miss (seven seasons) and Oklahoma State (nine years). In truth, the far more achievable goal is to get to eight to nine players, meaning the five starters and three to four reserves, one each who can flip sides and fill as needed at tackle and guard and a pair of capable centers.
"To be realistic, probably anywhere I have been, the ultimate goal is to have an answer for a third guard. Now that may come from the tackle spot, it may come from the center spot, but in the third guard spot and to have an answer for a third tackle and then to have an answer for three centers," Wickline said. "So believe me, we’re not ready to stop practice anytime soon. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we are making strides and we’re getting there. There are several guys that we think can play both inside and outside. We’re too early to start moving guys a bunch. We’re still in install time, we’re still trying to get the kinks worked out of our base schemes.
"Once everyone is comfortable with 'Hey look, here’s the outside zone, here’s the counter and here’s the slow screen, here’s the draw, here’s the blitz pick up,' once we all kind of know we’re all on the same page, then I’ll say ‘Hey Johnny, you move to guard and hey junior you move to tackle.' Then they can communicate, but right now to start flipping them around, I’m still going to do it, but probably now is not the time to do it."
West Virginia has just five practices left before the Gold-Blue game, including one slated for today at 4:30 p.m. We will take a look at any team or individual work and try to gain a better feel for who could fill the immediate left tackle role if needed, as well as any additional shuffling of the first five or depth chart that can be ascertained.
"I’d say, if I had a strength, and I don’t know that I do, but if I had one, to not worry about things that I can’t control is probably one of them," Wickline said of injuries. "I live with it, but at the end of the day it’s the next man up for me. So what we do is we take the next guy and we put him over here, and as soon as this guy is ready, then I’ll be concerned about what we need to do."