After losing four players with starting experience (Tyler Orlosky, Tony Matteo, Adam Pankey and Marcell Lazard) and four year offensive line coach Ron Crook, it's safe to say West Virginia is going to look a little different up front in the upcoming season. That, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Kyle Bosch will surely man the left guard spot, but it looks like the Mountaineers can turn to a fifth-year senior in Grant Lingafelter to take over the right guard position that was manned by Bosch a season ago. Lingafelter, who has provided quality depth and played in 22 career games, is placing an emphasis on his fundamentals and the new schemes that come with a new offensive line coach (although Joe Wickline was with the Mountaineers in 2016 as an assistant line coach) and a new offensive coordinator calling plays.
"As an offensive linemen you have to develop everything," explained Lingafelter. "You can never really be satisfied and you have to get bigger, faster and stronger. You have to work on footwork and schemes. Obviously we have a new offensive coordinator calling plays so as an offense we need to get schemes down a little better and we need to work on footwork. I think we have done a pretty good job and we have to get better at that."
While it's unfair to expect anyone to make the kind of impact that Orlosky did at the center position, all indications are that Matt Jones has taken a big lead in the battle for the starting center job and has impressed coaches and teammates in the process. Joe Wickline and Dana Holgorsen have both spoken about the strides that Jones has made over the last few months and Lingafelter echoed those sentiments.
"I have always known Matt has had it in him. Matt has been a good player since he has been here but to be able to make that step and take first team reps at center, he's done a really good job. He's got communications down, he is identifying fronts and he's getting comfortable with it. Some of his nerves are going away. He's really confident, he's been playing physical and he's been doing a lot of the right things."
Another player who has caught Lingafelter's eye is redshirt freshman Josh Sills, who has been filling in for Yodny Cajuste over the last few weeks. At 6'6, 320 pounds, Sills has the size you like to see in a tackle and according to Lingafelter he has the physicality to match.
"He looks good. He's a big, physical player. For how young he is he's really stepped up. We're really going to need him to play this year. He's got to step up and he's got to play for us. You don't know where it's going to be, it could be at center or guard but so far through spring he's done a really good job. He's impressing a lot of us older guys. You don't really expect to see (a freshman) come in and take first team reps but he's done a pretty good job of it."
Lingagelter's comments are interesting, because as Wickline has also implied, Sills could potentially slide over to guard and take reps there when Cajuste makes his return in August. That versatility is incredibly valuable (just look at the impact Adam Pankey made over the last few seasons) for the most physical position on the field. To get it from a redshirt freshman is just an added bonus.
The Mountaineers are a ways away from finalizing a rotation, but things are starting to take shape as the Mountaineers conclude spring practice.