Change of Outlook

It is really remarkable how much can change in just one year. This time last year, Don Barclay and the rest of the offensive line was coming under fire and receiving criticism for their lack of consistent play.

One season later, while the jury is still out on offensive line, Barclay and all but one starter from last season are returning a year older and a year wiser.

"We have a lot of players coming back," said Barclay. "Everyone is refocused. We know what we have to do. I'm so much more comfortable and I know everyone else is. I think Coach Johnson has done a great job preparing us. That's why we are so comfortable. He he has all of our techniques down good."

Barclay, alongside fellow starters Josh Jenkins, Eric Jobe, and Joe Madsen, got crucial experience last year. Barclay played 839 of the 852 snaps that the Mountaineer offense took last season. While it was difficult to put such a huge responsibility on a player that was just in his second year, it provided Barclay and the rest of the offensive line the experience of veterans, although none of the returning starters are seniors.

"We have more stuff to prove," said Barclay. "With all of the hard work that we have done, we're just ready to take it to another level. We're going to try and win the Big East and then take it from there. We just have to take it one by one."

While the line did not have much to look for from backups last season, head coach Bill Stewart has expressed his desire to play a variety of players on the offensive line this season and hopes to have up to a ten-man rotation by the end of the season. With Jeff Braun and Cole Bowers expected to battle for time along with Jobe on the right side of the line, West Virginia is already up to seven players in the mix. As the season progresses, others, such as John Bassler an Chad Snodgrass, could also earn time.

"The right side is still a battle and it will probably be a battle throughout much of the season," Stewart said about the starboard side of the ship. "Cole Bowers, whether he starts at right guard or right tackle, or plays a lot at both, is one of our top three on that side.Joe Madsen is our center, but I want to work Eric Jobe in there as well. There are about eight or nine linemen we feel very comfortable with and hopefully we can bring some of the young guys along so we have nine or 10 guys."

Barclay believes that the younger guys could both make an impact once they finish learning the offense and work on their comfort level.

"The guys that are second string just have to work to get that trust with Coach Johnson," said Barclay. "That's the biggest thing is that you have to prove yourself. They have to show what they can do mentally and physically. Guys like Pat Eger, Cole Bowers, and John Bassler are fighting every day [for playing time]."

While many teams ranked in the Top 25 may have a difficult time preparing to play a team like Coastal Carolina, Barclay and the rest of the Mountaineers seem anxious to get on the field and begin building on their achievements from last season.

"You can never take any opponent lightly," said Barclay. "This team is good. They bring a lot of defenses like fronts and blitzes. They're a good team. They're quick too. I can't wait. We've been working since our bowl game and putting in so many hours and hard work that it's due to pay off. I just can't wait to get out there."


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