Point of View

Offensive line coach Greg Frey might be forgiven if he had a flashback to his playing days at Florida State when he took the field for West Virginia's practices over the past few days.

It wasn't that any of Frey's former teammates were visiting him, or that West Virginia had suddenly gotten some transfers from the Seminole program. It was the sea of red jerseys that faced him when he began individual drills. In addition to Jake Miller, who is out indefinitely, Eric Rodemoyer and Frank Carduff have been draped in crimson on occasion, and Stephen Maw has missed several sessions. Even transfer John Hafferty, who can't play this year, had a red shirt of the injury variety on his back.

When confronted with this scene, however, Frey didn't overreact. He appears to have mastered the ability to put aside those things that can't be controlled and concern himself with what he can.

"Our goal each day is to make each player a better football player and a better person," Frey said after going through a recent practice short-handed. "While there are going to be injuries in the game of football, you have to work with the guys that are out there working. You try to help them as good as they can become."

On an individual basis, that philosophy certainly flies, as does the thought that a missed practice or two by one player just opens the door for more repetitions, and thus improvements, for another. However, there comes a critical point when all those absences have to have an effect, right? Not necessarily, according to Frey.

"Well, you know it's one of those things where each player brings certain strengths," Frey noted. "That's what practices are for, to try to get those things to jell and try to teach each one how to play and how they are going to contribute to the team. It's a team sport – there are 11 guys out there on the field. I don't think it comes down to just one injury or two injuries. It's more of a team thing -- the group effort. I think you just let them go and work through camp, through the good times and the bad times, and then rock and roll at the end and see what happens."

While Frey sounds almost laissez faire about the entire situation, that's certainly not the case. He knows that in melding three returning starters with two players to be elevated from backup roles a year ago, he faces a challenge in keeping West Virginia's potent offensive attack in gear. Any drop in production will likely be blamed, rightly or no, on the retooled offensive front, even though that's something else he can't control. He won't worry about that, however. His focus will be on wringing those incremental improvements from each of his charges each day, and on combining the strengths he spoke of to field a line that can keep WVU's explosive scoring machine churning.

Frey is also searching for one backup at each line spot, so that he can go into the season with at least eight blockers ready to play. Lost time certainly hinders that search as well, especially for younger guys like Rodemoyer, who need every repetition possible in order to build the cohesiveness that zone blocking demands. However, Frey isn't panicking by any means. He is taking what is available and working with them to forge the best unit he can, and is also making sure that his charges take the same outlook.

One of those players, guard Greg Isdaner, is among the smartest on the team, and he has obviously been listening to the message Frey is preaching.

"I don't think it really matters that much," Isdaner said of the rash of injuries. "I think we really just need a little more time to jell. We are coming along and progressing very well. Some of the guys like Derek Hayes, John Bradshaw and Selvish Capers are moving up."

Isdaner acknowledges, however, that the line is still a work in progress. Even though the second teamers he mentions are getting more work in, they still have many lessons to learn. And there's also the jell factor – which comes up in just about every conversation about the offensive line – that can't be rushed.

"We still have a ton of work to do," the thoughtful Isdaner said. "There are just three weeks left, and we realize we can improve a lot by then. I think we will be good for the opener."

No matter where the Mountaineer offensive line is in the learning process by that time, it seems apparent that their coach won't fall prey to the worry that plagues some coaches in that regard. Frey will keep his players on a steady course, building block by block, on what he hopes to be a steady upward curve of improvement throughout the season. That's something that he can control, and thus one that gets his attention.

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