By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Quick now, name West Virginia’s offensive line coach.
Couldn’t do it? Very few can.
Now, name WVU’s departed offensive line coach.
Bet you got that — Dave Johnson.
See, beyond offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, the person most blamed by the public for the failure of what was supposed to be an explosive Mountaineer offense, was Johnson, whose line had gaping holes rather than making gaping holes.
That is why Dana Holgorsen is here to run the offense in Mullen’s place for a year, until he takes over the entire team next season, and why he brought Bill Bedenbaugh with him to mold a quicker, tougher offensive line.
You ask Bedenbaugh what kind of personality he is trying to create in his offensive line and the answer is exactly what you were hoping he’d say.
“Mean, nasty. That’s the biggest thing,” he said.
Leave the finesse for Holgorsen’s skill players. While they get rave reviews, offensive linemen get nothing but a bruise.
“If you’re a tough kid you can overcome a bunch of weaknesses you have in this game — not being as good of an athlete, not being as good technically. If you’re tough, you can overcome that. That’s what I expect these guys to be,” Bedenbaugh stressed.
To do that, his style is expected to be a world different than Johnson, who was a quiet man, introspective, who flew off only at the worst transgressions.
Asked about his style, he did not hesitate.
“In your face,” he said. “That’s the only way. I’m demanding. I’m tough. I expect a lot.”
That sounds like a return to the Rick Trickett days, with Bedenbaugh a far more imposing sight as a former offensive lineman himself, while Trickett was the size of a jockey.
“Who plays doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have any favorites. My job here is to build an offensive line, and whoever that is, is who it is. I don’t care who played last year.”
Everyone starts even.
“I watched a little bit (of film from last year), just to see more of their athleticism and how they move and things like, just to see if we may want to move guys around,” he said. “You hear things (about the inherited players), but you have to go in open minded. If you get any pre-conceived notions, you may be cheating a guy who can be a really good player for you. I don’t know what they can do or how they have matured from last year to this time.
“I had a tackle at Texas Tech who started the first game of the year as a junior, got benched and never played again as a junior,” Bedenbaugh continued. “As a senior, he wound up going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You don’t know how they will develop. You never give up on guys or have a pre-conceived notion. Let them go out there and show you what they can do.”
And this spring, players are going to have a good chance to show what they can because two starters, Don Barclay and Jeff Braun, are out recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
“That hurts,” Bedenbaugh admitted. “But it’s like Coach Holgorsen said, it gives other guys an opportunity. It will obviously build our depth. If we have two other guys we think can start and these two guys who have started and had success, it has to be better.”
Two players that everyone is looking to get a good look at in the spring is 6-5, 348-pound Quinton Spain, who redshirted last year, as well as Blaise Arbogast, a 6-3, 328-pound junior out of West Virginia Wesleyan.
In the sense that the offense is new, with a different philosophy and emphasis, everyone really does start off even. And, Bedenbaugh promises, it won’t take long for them to learn it.
“The one thing we have always done in this offense, we try to keep it simple,” Bedenbaugh said. “We run the same schemes but make them look different. That’s how you get the defense focused on what you’re doing. You run the same plays out of different formations.
“It’s one of those deals if you get to the right play, it really doesn’t matter what the defense does.”
And they do it quickly.
“The speed we play at tires the defense more than us because we know what we’re doing; they don’t,” he said. “You watch them last year some, you watch us at Arizona when we move really fast ... heck, they don’t even pass rush. They get tired out.”
The Mountaineers return Joey Madsen at center, Barclay at tackle and Braun at guard, along with the other guard, Josh Jenkins. Gone from last year are Eric Jobe and Matt Timmerman.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.