By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
With an acknowledged lack of depth and experience at offensive tackle, much pressure falls on the center of the West Virginia offensive line ... and we mean that in both aspects of the word center.
Indeed, the men in the middle — guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski — must stand strong, but the true center, Tyler Orlosky, will be the center of attention, so to speak.
If the WVU line is going to be good enough to run coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense as it is supposed to be run, it begins with the center.
A year ago, it also began with Orlosky, for he had come off a redshirt season and was moved from guard to center in the spring, winning the starting job.
That led to predictions of big things for the 6-foot-4, 299-pounder out of the proud St. Edward’s program in Cleveland, but it turned out he just wasn’t ready to handle the job at that time and was benched following the season’s third game against Maryland.
Of course, considering that Maryland was a 37-0 defeat, they could have benched almost everyone who started that game.
“Maybe two guys on defense had a good game,” Orlosky recalled.
But he wound up being one of the chosen few and that hurts, which is exactly what it is supposed to do when a coach makes such a move.
“First I was a little upset about it,” understated Orlosky, who has a man-sized temper at times. “After a couple of games I understood why they did it, and then later in the season I started playing more. I think it was the right move. I learned a lot from it.”
“Any time you have something like that happen, it’s a rough blow to your ego,” offensive line coach Ron Crook noted. “You step back and you get angry, but then over the course of a week or several weeks you start fighting back. That’s what he did. He fought back and finished the year on a strong note. He played really good down the stretch.”
He played good enough to let the coaches know that he had reached the stage where they could count on him this coming season, giving him the starting center’s job this spring.
It’s something he isn’t taking for granted, either.
“You never know when it is going to be taken away from you so you have to do everything you can to keep it,” he said. “That’s my job.”
And last year wasn’t a total loss.
“Starting those games did a lot for me,” Orlosky admitted. “I got to know what it’s like. It’s going to be very important for this first game because it’s Alabama. Playing in front of Oklahoma last year, (close to) 90,000 people, not many people get to do that or get to experience that. I think it was a great learning experience, and hopefully that will help me this year.”
He also said he learned from being around players like Spain and Pat Eger, who helped through what was a tough adjustment period.
“I think everyone goes through something like that. Hopefully I got mine out of the way early,” Orlosky said.
Certainly, Orlosky has matured.
“The thing he’s getting better at is letting stuff go. It’s OK to be PO’d when you are walking back to the line of scrimmage, but then you got to let it go because we have a new play,” Crook said. “Maturity is part of it, and then there’s that these guys have a lot of pride in what they do, and when they make a mistake they do get upset. Part of the maturing process is being able to let it go and get on to the next play.”
Now he has to carry that over into this season.
“I have definitely become more confident in my play,” he said. “That’s the big thing. Once I get consistency down, I will be better.”
And so should the offensive line.
“We have more playing experience across the front and the interior has the most, so we will be better off than last year,” Orlosky said.
There is another reason the line should improve, and that is that Crook is going into his second season in the role of offensive line coach, allowing for some continuity.
“It helps, especially at this time of year, because last year I was trying to teach them new techniques, they were learning new terminology, I was learning new terminology. Everyone was learning new things,” he said.
“This year we know all that; we know what’s expected. I have a good feeling for them on what they are capable of and what makes them click and play hard and play with focus. I think it’s a lot easier to come out early in the spring and get going the right way.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.