Settled Spot

After receiving a lot of harsh criticism last season, it's no wonder than that members of West Virginia's offensive line are looking to prove something this year. With four of its veteran starters back, it's looking like the guys up front could be the key to the Mountaineers' offensive success in 2010.

After switching positions and rallying for a starting spot last season, redshirt sophomore Joe Madsen looks to have sealed his position as the starting center on the offensive line. Madsen and linemate Eric Jobe flipped between center and guard last year, depending on the defensive front they faced, but this year the duo looks to be entrenched at center and guard, respectively. While all positions are still up in the air, at least in the public pronouncements of the coaches,Madsen admits he can rest a little easier now that he's listed with the ones on the depth chart.

"I work every day 100 percent," said Madsen of his securing his job as the starting center. "It's a lot easier now being able to focus on getting a lot better instead of fighting to get that starting position. It's nice."

One position on the line that is far from filled is the right tackle spot, left vacant by the graduation of Selvish Capers. While fellow redshirt sophomore Jeff Braun is the front runner for the job at this point, Madsen has been impressed with the effort brought forth by redshirt freshman Pat Eger, and is pleased to see the two competing.

"Braun is stepping up right now and I like where he's at," said Madsen of the open spot. "Another contender is Eger. Eger is always fighting. Hopefully we can see what happens. [Braun] knows what's going on with me. Every other position knows what's we're doing so it's not really a big factor."

While there is a lot of competition all over the offensive line, head coach Bill Stewart has noticed the effort put forth by Madsen. Like any coach, he's pleased with the fire he has shown so far in camp.

"First of all, he's such a competitor," said Stewart. "He's a fierce, fierce competitor. He plays Mountaineer football the way it's supposed to be played, physical and hard-nosed. The tougher it gets for a guy like Joe Madsen, the better he performs. I see him as being that line leader, he and [Don] Barclay."

For three days this past week, the Mountaineers moved out of the stadium and practiced up the hill on their natural grass practice field. The players were pleased with the change of scenery and the much needed breeze that the field offers during the intense heat.

"I like it a little bit better [on the grass field]," said Madsen. "There's more space to work with because we have that whole other field to work with and the grass is not as hard as the turf out there. The cement under there kind of wears and tears on your ankles. It's probably a little bit cooler up there with the wind blowing so I like it."

Like the rest of the team, Madsen was excited to put on pads and get physical during Wednesday's practice when the team finally got to put on full pads. They welcomed the first day with that player favorite, the "W" drill.

"We finally got out there and got that [victory] drill going," said Madsen of Wednesday's practice. "We got it popping. We had a few headaches going around but everything is going alright. I was kind of nervous coming back the first full day of pads with getting double teams and stuff. We just need to work hard and get better."

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