Opportunity Knocks

West Virginia center Eric Jobe certainly didn't want more playing time at the expense of an injury to first-teamer Mike Dent, but it didn't keep him from taking advantage of the rising senior's absence during the spring.

Jobe, a redshirt sophomore from LaPlata, Md., wants to win the center job on his own merit. Like just about every true competitor, he doesn't like the idea that he might be in the lineup by default, or due to an injury or absence of competition. That was partly the case this spring, as Dent, along with other linemen like Greg Isdaner, Jon Walko and Derek Hayes, missed time due to injury or surgery.

However, injuries and missed time are obviously part of the game, and can provide opportunities for backups to showcase their skills. At West Virginia, that process was clearly illustrated in 2005, when Patrick White took over the reins fulltime from an injured Adam Bednarik during the Louisville game and became an All-America quality performer. So, even though the manner of the chance may not be to a competitor's liking, it often is an opportunity that can't be ignored.

Such is the case with Jobe, who noted that he didn't want to be the first team guy just because Dent was out. It didn't stop, him, though, from gaining a great deal of experience during WVU's spring drills.

"It was a lot of extra learning, especially with the new offense," Jobe said of his time with the top linemen. Mike helped me out a lot. When I'd come off the field he would tell me to stay low, or keep my snaps up, or whatever I needed to be working on. I think it was really good. I was able to build on last year. I got in about five games in [a year ago] and the experience I got this spring is really going to help."

Jobe also had help from the guards flanking him on the line, which he is quick to credit.

"The two guards next to me are both seniors, so if I make a mental mistake they are there to help me. Before the ball is snapped we make sure we all know what we are doing. Coach Johnson gave me reps with the ones and twos, and Gino Gradkowski with the ones and twos, so I've gotten to work with Jake Figner, John Bradshaw and Donny Barclay and a lot of the other guys. Each person is kind of different, so you do have to learn to adapt and play with different people, so I think it's good that he has rotated us all in."

Jobe hopes to use that experience to make a push for more playing time at center, but that's one spot that typically doesn't see a lot of rotation, if for no other reason that consistency in center snaps. That was an issue at times with Dent last year, but it was also something Jobe struggled with at points during the spring. It will certainly be a focus during the early part of fall camp, and the player that can combine consistency in that area with effective blocking will come out with the number one job. Odds are, that will be Dent, but Jobe hopes to press him

"Hopefully when Mike comes back in August we will have good competition in camp," said Jobe.

Jobe, whose skills as a wrestler helps him with some of the hand-to-hand combat in the middle of the line, discounts any advantage that he might have gained from being able to practice the new schemes live, while Dent was confined to mental reps for the spring.

"There haven't been many changes, it's mostly the play calls that are a little different," he explained. "The basic zone [blocking] is the same. The snap counts have changed a little bit, and the pre-snap stuff has changed with what the linemen have to do. We met a lot before spring practice started, so we got used to that pretty quickly. It might be a little tougher, but through repetition you get used to it. You make the calls, you get ready to go, you snap the ball and then you play football after that."

That last line might sum up Jobe's approach to the competition at center. Let everyone show what they have, and let the chips fall where they may. With Dent and Gradkowski, along with Jobe, competing at the center spot, WVU looks to be well set for both the 2008 season and beyond.


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