Line of Improvement

One of West Virginia's main goals during spring drill was the rebuilding of the offensive line. After losing four starters, the offensive line had the spring to find replacements and work on unified play. After 15 days of practice, sophomore Josh Jenkins thinks they achieved those goals.

"I definitely feel like we're gelling," said Jenkins following West Virginia's spring game. "I feel like we're going to be good. We're coming off the ball. We're being more explosive, more aggressive. We just have more experience now than we did at the beginning of the spring."

After seeing limited playing time last season due to injury, Jenkins is being called on as a leader to the young line, seeing as how he is one of the few players on the line with game time experience. That was limited, however, to just four games, which shows how young the WVU offensive trench corps truly is.

"I try lead as much as I can," admitted Jenkins. "I try to lead by example. I try to lead by being vocal. I try to do what I can to do my part for the offensive line." Jenkins will likely be called on even more as the offensive line meets for summer workouts. After redshirt sophomore Don Barclay broke his fibula during the Gold/Blue game, the offensive line lost a little bit of the chemistry they had worked all spring on. However, Jenkins didn't seem concerned.

"That's why Coach Johnson does such a good job with mixing up the players," said Jenkins. "I got to play with (junior Matt Timmerman) this spring too. We just picked it up (after Barclay's injury.)We just have to move on and communicate more."

The offensive line seemed to know what to do during Saturday's game. The first string offense ran for 166 yards. Junior running back Noel Devine was able to break through a hole for a 74-yard run, the longest run of the day. And pass protection, a problem during much of the spring, looked good, albeit against a defense made up of deep reserves.

"I think we played well, for the most part," said Jenkins. "I thought we gelled. We definitely showed that we can get the ball down the field and establish a running game. We had a couple penalties because we couldn't hear the down count a couple of times. I think we played well. I wouldn't say great because I will leave that up to the coaches."

That review, along with an overall assessment of where the line stands, is ongoing this week as the coaches provide each player with his summer improvement plan and a review of where he stands on the team. That's the basis for summer workouts, which in turn lay the groundwork for the fall.

In addition to Barclay, WVU also lost backup guard Chad Snodgrass to a broken toe, which could keep him out for up to 10 weeks. Barclay's injury, although seemingly more severe, might sideline him only 4-6 weeks. While both are expected back for the fall, the absence of workout time might serve to hinder some of the continuity that was just coming into place as spring drills wound down. A lot of ground was covered during the spring, but there is still a good bit of work to be done before the line will be ready to face foes in the fall.


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