By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Even when you have the most experienced of teams, spring football practice is a time to experiment.
This is where you have time on your side, no opponent to get ready for and an take a look at things that might work.
When you are in the situation West Virginia’s offense is in, that being trying to rebuild everything from quarterback to receivers to offensive line, you feel like everything is an experiment and none may be more important than at center.
It matters not the sport, a good team’s strength is nearly always up the middle and in football you better have a good center and quarterback or little else matters.
WVU is in the process of replacing both, which has created competition at each spot, Paul Millard and Ford Childress at quarterback and Pat Eger and Tyler Orloski at center. While Millard and Childress are career QBs, Eger and Orloski are trying their hand at it out of necessity.
There awaits, too, in the fall the coming of Stone Underwood, a promising junior college player, but make no doubt that this is one of the key projects of the spring ... a project that was set back some when Eger, who started some last year at tackle and can play guard, suffered an ankle injury.
That gives Orloski, a redshirt freshman out of Cleveland’s fine St. Edward’s program, an opening.
“As far as I’m concerned, I think we’re all even on the line. I don’t see anyone has a solidified spot and everyone is trying to get the starting jobs,” Orloski said. “I’m just going to keep battling and see what happens.”
With Eger hobbled, Orloski has been able to run with the first unit, as uncertain as that unit with the Mountaineers having to replace Jeff Braun, Josh Jenkins at guard and Joey Madsen at center.
“I’m just trying to work hard at it. It’s the first time I ever played in a game situation with these linemen,” Orloski said. “It’s going well so far. It’s spring ball so you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Becoming a center caught Orloski by surprise.
“Maybe a kicker was the last thing I thought I would become, but a center was probably next,” he said.
However, he came not totally unprepared.
“When I was in high school my coach told me to learn how to snap,” he said. “‘There are only so many guys who can snap,’” he said. “‘If that gets you into the game, that’s where you want to be.’”
To make this an even more interesting spring has been that Orloski not only has to adjust to a new position, but a new position coach in Ron Crook, who came in from Stanford and has some new thoughts about the position.
“You can tell he comes from a Stanford program that was dominantly a running program. He brings in a different type of running style that we weren’t really used to,” Orloski said. “We put in power. It’s put us somewhere we haven’t been before. We were mainly a throwing team. I think it has put us into places we weren’t before.”
In truth the Mountaineers’ strength seems to be in its running game with depth at running back and unknowns at quarterback and receiver, but the running game is only going to be as good as the blocking that comes from an offensive line that revolves around center.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.