Young Experience

It's not often that sophomores are looked at as veterans or leaders at any position on the football field. However, West Virginia Josh Jenkins is in just that role as the Mountaineer football team rebuilds its offensive line for the 2009 season.

Because the offensive line lost so many experienced players to graduation and injury, it has been a target for some preseason question marks. Although being referred to as the ‘weak link' of the team may be hard for some players, Jenkins and the rest of the offensive line are using the negativity as inspiration.

"I'm just anxious for the first game and the rest of the season to roll around so that [the offensive line] can prove ourselves," said Jenkins. "As an offensive line, when we're working out or something and the coaches want to motivate us, [they say something about the negativity]. They will say that the offensive line is supposed to be our weak link so we have to prove ourselves."

Although Jenkins saw playing time in just five games last season before suffering a knee injury against Rutgers, he was not able to receive a redshirt due to having played in too many games. Although he missed the latter half of the season, Jenkins is grateful for the playing time he was able to get.

"I think [last season] helped me because this year going into the first game I know what to expect," said Jenkins. "That makes a big difference than when you haven‘t played before and you step on the field for the first time in front of 65,000 people." With one year under his belt, Jenkins sees a lot of changes in himself today versus the 330 pound newcomer who came to Morgantown from Parkersburg High School.

"The big difference is I'm more in shape this summer," admitted Jenkins. "I'm not 330 pounds like I was last summer when I came in. It's been a lot easier for me. It gives me a chance to work harder on other things that I need to work on. I've matured a lot as a player. I've lost a lot of the fat and put it on in the right way."

During the summer, the offensive line has been working alongside the defense and practicing their blocking drills.

"The defense we block here really helps [the offensive line] prepare for game situations," said Jenkins. "I feel like we have one of the best defenses in the country. When you're blocking Reed Williams, J.T. Thomas, and Scooter Berry day in and day out I feel like you can block anyone in the country."

Jenkins is looking forward to the Mountaineers fall camp, which begins on Aug. 8, as a time for the offensive line to tie up any loose ends it has a unit.

"The biggest thing is going into [fall] camp and knowing what you're going to do," said Jenkins. "That's good so you don't waste time learning stuff over again. You get used to playing next to each other and communicating."

Jenkins won't be totally alone in his role. Veteran Selvish Capers will anchor the line at tackle, and Eric Jobe, who was elevated to a starting role when Mike Dent suffered a career-ending injury, has a similar amount of experience as Jenkins. However, the group is a long way from the 20+ games (and countless practices) of cohesive experience enjoyed by veteran lines. There's talent up front, but players such as Jeff Braun and Donny Barclay will be seeing their first extended stints on the field, while Matt Timmerman and Jon Walko, among others will be counted on for snaps as well.

Despite being younger than some of those players, Jenkins will be looked upon as a leader and a teacher during fall camp and early in the season. His success in that role will play a large part in West Virginia' early season outcomes.


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