Making Strides

Offensive linemen typically spend their first one or two seasons in anonymity as they learn the fundamentals of their craft. Often, that job is made more difficult with position changes, as linemen are moved around to find the spot that best fits their talents.

It's no different for sophomore lineman Justin Williams, who has seen time at both center and guard this spring for the Mountaineer football team.

The biggest difference between playing center and guard is getting into blocking position off the snap. A guard can go right from his stance into his block when a play starts, but the center has to make sure that the ball gets delivered to the quarterback - a task made doubly difficult by the shotgun snaps that the majority of WVU's plays begin with.

Given that, fact, it would seem to be easier to switch from center to guard, but for Williams it has been just the opposite.

"I played center all last year, so I was ok with that," Williams noted recently. "This spring I'm playing some guard too, and that has been an adjustment, because I've been used to playing with my hand on the ball.

"It's a matter of what you are used to. I'm going to put in as much work with my hand on the ground (guard) as I do with my hand on the ball (center) and hopefully I'll get to see the field more this year."

Fortunately, Williams and his offensive line mates have an outstanding teacher in the form of line coach Rick Trickett, who was generally pleased with the work of his pupils during the first week of spring drills.

"I'm miles away from where I was last year at this time," Williams said of his progress at center. "It didn't seem like I could get the ball back there, or even take the right steps.

"Coach Trickett is a good coach. He gets his point across. If you do what he says, you'll be out there to play."

Like most players who thrive on contact, Williams was happy to resume hitting this spring. For a lineman, throwng weights around during winter workouts may pay dividends, but according to Williams there's nothing like putting on the pads.

"Lifting weights is great, I can tell I've gotten stronger. But until you get out there and put it all together, you don't really know where you stand. Hitting a person is different from hitting a bag - the person moves a little more quickly. Just getting back out on the field is great."

Williams and his teammates were forced to take this week off with spring break in effect at WVU - a situation which the Moorefield, West Virginia native dislikes. However, Williams took advantage of the break to head for Cancun, Mexico, with some teammates, so the situation wasn't all bad.

"I'd much rather go straight through spring practice without the break, but that's the way it happens. I'm going on vacataion, but I'll still manage to get some work in."

The Mountaineers will resume practice on Monday, April 1.


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