Stanchek, Capers Ready For Camp

Left tackle is arguably the strongest slot in West Virginia's zone blocking scheme, albeit via two players with widely varying styles and current abilities.

Starter Ryan Stanchek is a proven commodity, a 2006 second team All-Big East pick entering his third consecutive season as a starter. He's tenacious, he's nasty – and he utilizes those traits better than any other player on the roster. A Gridiron Gladiator winner for his dogged on-field style, Stanchek had 46 knockdowns and graded out at better than 90 percent over 13 games last season, that after a forced move from guard to tackle because of an opening game injury to Damien Crissey.

Yet, out of Cincinnati's LaSalle High, Stanchek wasn't highly recruited. NC State and West Virginia were the two finalists, over Northwestern and UC, with the lineman choosing the Mountaineers just prior to WVU's near miss in the Orange Bowl versus Miami in October of 2003. At the same 6-4 he was in high school, Stanchek has just now reached the 300 pound weight class, up from the 252 he was he signed. He didn't – and still doesn't – possess the raw athletic tools of some linemen, but he has parlayed his intelligence, understanding and desire into Outland Trophy status as among the nation's to-watch trench players this season.

Backup Selvish Capers was one of the "top tight end prospects in the south," when he signed with West Virginia, according to Scout.com. He benched 285 pounds, squatted 615 and his build (6-5, 249 pounds) and speed (4.75 40-yard dash) made him a perfect candidate for tackle or tight end. Capers tried the latter, and finally fell into a role behind Stanchek last spring, when the New Orleans native was convinced he had a NFL-type body with the talent to match at tackle.

It was Capers who actually ran down a defensive back from 15 yards behind during a full-pads drill in spring, and who is now 6-6 and a chiseled 285 pounds. What's there is the shell of a player with a huge upside when he further learns the position during the fall camp. And when that happens, with Stanchek's ability to man any of the four guard and tackle spots, West Virginia's line should again have the diversity that former coach Rick Trcikett demanded and that current position coach Greg Frey adores, giving Pat White and Steve Slaton all the depth, muscle and finesse needed.

"It was a big move," Capers said of his unselfishness in deciding to slide inside to tackle. "It has a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. At tight end you get a block or go out for a pass. On the line, it's all blocking. We get together and work on plays and steps and reads and calls. We try to read disguised defenses and pick up blitzes and things like that. It's a lot of work because you have to protect everything. It's a big process. I thought you made a call and everybody came together and maybe made a wall or whatever. It's a lot more in depth than that. If one of us goes down, we all go down. You work on a lot of little things, all being a unit.

"It's hard, but I like it. It's a lot better than what I through it would be last season. And my athleticism helps me at the position. But my technique and fundamentals should be a whole lot better this season. A lot of people have an upper hand on me on technique and fundamentals."

Stanchek noted, too, that for a linemen, the repetitions taken through the initial fall at the spot loom large in gaining knowledge that comes with reading defenses.

"More than anything, it's a confidence thing," the junior said. "It's knowing defenses more. I feel much more comfortable (now at tackle). I felt great the first game last year, then I moved to tackle. If I had to move back or anywhere, I feel more comfortable. At tackle you are in a two-point stance more and are going against ends. At guard it's bigger guys, bigger linemen and linebackers."

Stanchek has helped Capers through the first phases of the transition, which were easier coming in the spring. Now, with fall camp opening Aug. 6, the intensity will increase and Stanchek will be trying to anchor a line minus all-Big East picks Dan Mozes – the Rimington Award winner as the nation's best center last year – and guard Jeremy Sheffey. He will have less time to assist Capers, who will go through his first full fall camp as a tackle.

"I am not a real big rah-rah guy. I lead by example," Stanchek said. "A lot of our guys are like that. If guys do the right thing, the young guys will follow. There is a time you talk and a time you let things go. The best way I know how is to lead by example, and I am not going to try to change. I think there is a great comfort level there as far as a great confidence in each other. It will all gel in camp, but we all have to have confidence in each other. That's the biggest thing for me, confidence in teammates. The junior class has really taken it upon ourselves to step up. We might not have one and two big-leaguers, but we make up for it with more numbers. The rest takes care of itself."

Stanchek and Capers will join John Bradshaw on the left side, Mike Dent and Eric Jobe at center, Greg Isdaner and Eric Rodemoyer at right guard and Jake Figner and John Walko at right tackle.

"I feel like I have more experience," Capers said. "It's a lot easier than what it was last year in terms of experience. It gets you prepared for the upcoming season, with the strength and speed. I feel good right now. I felt every day I got better (in spring). I did what I could do, my best. I thought I did well. Now it will get intense. It gets harder every day. When camp comes we want to be in shape and ready for the upcoming season."


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