The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 23, 2013

Eger set to take center stage

MORGANTOWN — All eyes are naturally drawn to Pat Eger when he walks into a room,

First off, at 6-foot, 6-inches and 302 pounds, he fills the doorway completely.

Toss in blond hair that hangs down almost to his shoulders, although on this day he has it pinned up, and he has to be the center of attention as the West Virginia University Mountaineer players are meeting the media for the first time this spring.

And what could be more fitting than him being the center of attention, for this spring it is exactly what he is as the Mountaineers take a week off from practice for spring break.

It wasn’t long after the Pinstripe Bowl disaster that offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh approached Eger with a thought.

“Pat,” he said, “I might need you to play center this year, and we’re going to need you to start taking snaps in the 7-on-7s.”

For the last few years WVU was solid at center with Joey Madsen there, a player good enough there is talk he’ll wind up being drafted by an NFL team after being invited to the combine.

Madsen is gone now and, to be honest, no one has been groomed to take his place, hence the thought that maybe Eger can handle it.

A tackle last year, Eger was moved because tackle is a position of strength on the offensive line, while Eger has shown a great deal of versatility over his career.

“I’m ready to play center,” he said. “Wherever, if Coach Crook says play left tackle or if he says play right guard, I’m ready to play. I’ve played everything but center in my five years. Who knows? I might snap it to myself, throw it, run down the field and catch it.”

That play probably will not be put into the playbook, but the experiment of moving Eger to center rather than trying to rely on a newly recruited freshman is well under way.

And it hasn’t been easy.

See, because you can drive your Chevy down University Avenue doesn’t make you a NASCAR driver, and just because you can block as a guard or tackle doesn’t make you a center.

There’s this skill called snapping the ball involved, and so far Eger doesn’t have that mastered, not that anyone does when they first are moved there.

“It was rough,” Eger admitted. “The first day my snaps were all over the place. You’ve got to be able to snap the ball, punch with your off hand and step at the same time,” Eger said. “And you’ve got to do it while Shaq Rowell is drooling in his stance, ready to come off and smack you in the face.

“The steps and the snaps and the pad level were a little bit iffy the first day, but the goal is don’t make those same mistakes the next day.”

There is all this for Eger along with coming back from ankle surgery he underwent following the regular season, keeping him from being at full go as it is.

Eger does have something working for him in a big way. He is an intelligent player, and the center position is one that not only requires skill but it takes a strong mind to play, although Eger downplays that.

“You have to make the calls, of course, but when it comes down to it, it is everyone playing physical,” he said.

There is another matter complicating things, too, and that is the change in line coaches from Bill Bedenbaugh to Ron Crook, who has come from Stanford with some different techniques and philosophies.

This, however, is nothing new to Eger.

“I’m on my third offensive line coach right now. It’s been a blessing and a bad thing every time. I taken a little bit from Coach Dave Johnson, taken from Coach Bedenbaugh and now I’m taking from Coach Crook,” he said.

“At the end of the day, new coaches come in, and we work from there. There’s nothing you can do about it as a player.”

So, as you see, the transition is not an easy one.

But then no one ever said moving to center would be a snap.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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