Filling the Void

No one was more surprised to learn of center Mike Dent's injury than back-up sophomore Eric Jobe. Jobe did not know that he would be making his first start as a Mountaineer in last Saturday's game against Cincinnati until the Thursday before that contest.

"I was a little nervous at first, but luckily I had a day to practice for it," Jobe admitted. I've prepared all year like I was going to start. I knew I could do it. Once I got that first snap under my belt I calmed down a little bit."

Unlike Dent, who has three years of game experience, Jobe saw limited time last year on the field – his first as a Mountaineer. And despite the preparation Jobe discussed, when the moment arrived for his first snap, there was a bit of trepidation. That's natural for most people thrust into a new situation. Add in the fact that it came in front of 60,000 fans and a nationwide television audience, and a case of the jitters would be understandable. However, Jobe also had the advantage of Dent in his ear. The senior has acted as a mentor to Jobe, and tried to help him adjust to the center position. Jobe will take over that spot next year, but the early test was a good one for him.

"He has confidence in me. He just said to go out there and play ball. He was a big help during the game. When I came to the sidelines he would be telling me if my snaps were good and if my blocking was good. He was a big support. He‘s taught me a lot," Jobe said of the upperclassman.

Jobe has been preparing for the chance of Dent not being able to play due to the senior's lingering shoulder injury. Dent had surgery in the off-season to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which kept him out of spring practice. That gave Jobe some time to take snaps with the starting line-up, and each one of those was critical in helping him prepare for his start against the Bearcats.

"The spring enabled me to grow and learn the offense especially with the new coaching staff coming in. That got me some valuable experience," he confirmed. "Last year I got some playing time in some games so it wasn't a whole new experience for me."

That experience certainly helped, even though it was more spot duty than a game long assignment. However, he handled the job well, according to head coach Bill Stewart. The first-year Mountaineer mentor was pleased with the sophomore's first start as center, and could relate to the intimidation Jobe felt.

"I though (Jobe) did a nice job. I was thrust in that situation one year. Our center got his hand broke and I was playing linebacker. I went in there and played and had an All-American across from me. It was a rough day. I thought Eric Jobe battled. That's all you can ask a guy to do, is battle," Stewart said of the sophomore's effort.

Jobe, like most achievers, was a little more critical of his performance.

"I think I played decent against Cincinnati. There were a couple of sacks that we could have prevented. All in all, I think we executed pretty well. It was a tough loss, but now we are getting ready for Louisville," Jobe said.

During the Mountaineers' bye week, Jobe will continue to take snaps with the starting offensive line while Dent recuperates. His status is still "week-to-week" according to Stewart, but Jobe himself has heard that he is expected to be in the middle of the line again when the Mountaineers visit the Cardinals. He will continue to work on improvement, including the process of making the all-important calls that signal the line's assignments.

"The word is that they are going to reevaluate [Mike] in a couple of weeks and then see where he goes from there. So, I'm getting ready to start for Louisville," Jobe said.

West Virginia must conquer several problems on offense, including an inability to convert third down and short situations, if they are to defeat the Cardinals. Although Jobe is new to the mix up front, that doesn't matter in the end analysis. He will have to be part of the solution as WVU tries to fight its way back to the top of the Big East standings.

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