WVU features experience at all positions
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 00:08
West Virginia’s big-time playmakers - Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey - get plenty of attention.
But it’s the five offensive linemen that enable Smith and company to be successful and will be the driving force behind head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense.
"That’s the nature of football; you win and lose up front," said offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. "I don’t think they’ve had that attitude in the past. You have to instill that attitude, and now they’re the leaders of this team."
The offensive line essentially returns five starters, including three seasoned vets, creating an excellent guard-center-guard combo. With those three, the group was able to be the most efficient unit during fall camp.
"With the O-line, you knew what you were getting with (Joey) Madsen, (Jeff) Braun and (Josh) Jenkins. Those guys have played a lot of football around here and solidified the inside," Holgorsen said. "I feel good about the O-line."
Left tackle Quinton Spain, at 6-foot-5, 334 pounds, has finally matured into starter material. Having played in 13 games last season in a reserve role, Spain has limited experience. Protecting Geno Smith’s blindside will be his top job. Spain will be tested throughout the season against top defensive ends like TCU’s Stansly Maponga and Texas’ Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat.
Next to Spain at left guard, is Josh Jenkins. The redshirt senior returns after missing the entire 2011 season with a knee injury that he suffered during the 2011 spring game. Jenkins, who has had knee problems in his career, will add a level of comfort. He was all Big-East performer in 2010.
The anchor of the group is center, Joe Madsen. Named to the Rimington Trophy watch list in the preseason, Madsen is expected to have a huge senior season. He is team’s leader in career starts with 38 starts. He’s the guy who brings everything together for this group.
Right guard Jeff Braun has been the one in this group to have improved the most. Braun slid back into his comfort zone as he moved from left guard to right guard. Now that Braun is comfortable, he can have an even better year than he did 2011. Braun only allowed one sack last year, and now that he is back in his natural position, he should be able to flourish.
Finally, at right tackle, Pat Eger returns. The 6-foot-6, 301-pound Eger has a good wingspan. According to Dana Holgorsen and Bill Bedenbaugh, Pat Eger is much improved. Eger had games where he played well and others where he struggled. The team is just looking for that consistency.
This is a group that takes pride in togetherness. Braun feels that the cohesiveness of this unit couldn’t be any better, and because of that the offensive line could carry this team.
"I look at Joey (Madsen) and Josh (Jenkins) and say everyone has to lean on us. When things get down, we got to be able to pick things up and get it going," Braun said.
This group seems like they have that attitude change. They care. The starters are five strong. There are no weak holes in the starting five.
Beyond that, guys like Nick Kindler and Curtis Feigt are viable backups. If anything bad were to happen with the starting five, Bedenbaugh wouldn’t feel hesitant about putting either Kindler or Feigt in.
"You’d like to have ten guys that can play, two left tackles, two left guards, two centers, two right guards, two right tackles, but very rarely are you going to get that," Bedenbaugh said. "I feel good right now, if we got in a situation, if we had to move Pat (Eger) and Spain down to guard and being able to insert Feigt and Kindler to tackle we could."
The unit is developed and has depth. The offense live has a great comfort level with one another. From right to left everyone knows that in order to succeed they will all have to play well together.
"Us being that band of brothers, just the comfort level we have on the field is nice," Madsen said.