To steal an old cliché, there is good news and bad news when it comes to the Mountaineer offensive line. The bad news is that they must fill enormous holes at center and right guard where standouts Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey have respectfully departed. The good news is that there are three starters back from last season, and not a single starting senior on the entire line. With that type of experience coming back, it shouldn't take too long for this quintet of Stanchek, Figner, Isdaner, Rodemoyer and Dent to come together as one on the field.
"We've made a lot of strides," said Stanchek, the group's most experienced player with two seasons of starting experience. "We still have a long way to go, but offensive line is (a lot of) guys getting together and gelling. The new guys are learning a lot of our calls and gelling together. Everyone has a great attitude, so it's been a pretty good first few days."
Without the leadership of Sheffey and Mozes, each of the five projective starters will likely be shouldering an equal amount of the leadership burden, according to the Cincinnati native.
"It's very unique this year on the offensive line because we don't have any seniors," said the LaSalle High product. "We lost two great seniors with Mozes and Sheffey. I think that the juniors have all done a great job of stepping up. Mike Dent, as the center, takes on a leadership role and so far he's done a very good job with that. Jake Figner at right tackle has done very well I think. Greg Isdaner has really stepped up as a leader at guard too. I think we really have all taken it on because we don't have any seniors. Everyone is leading by example."
In years past, rookie offensive linemen have rarely had an impact. That could change this year, especially with Friday's news that second-string center Eric Jobe will switch to nose guard for at least the next few weeks, leaving true freshman Gino Gradkowski as the backup center. While the thought of a first-year player being put under the gun early may sit uneasy with some Mountaineer fans, Stanchek has seen plenty of promise so far from the youngsters.
"Donny Barclay, to me, has really stood out," he said of the Harmony, Pa. product. "I think he's going to be a really great player here. Gino Gradkowski has also stood out, and I think he's going to be a great player here as well along with Chad Snodgrass. All of the young guys have been way ahead of schedule."
Youngsters and veterans alike continue to gel together on the offensive line, laying the groundwork for success in 2007.