By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Football teams which create their image off the passing game and finesse, who spread the field and use slip screens and bubble screens out wide and then go deep have a lot of success in scoring points, but what they don’t do is create a reputation for toughness.
In today’s football this not exactly a negative, except for the fact that it can run over onto the defense, which must defend that a good bit in practice, keeping it from developing the kind of toughness a team would like.
Again, this is fine when you have Tavon Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey spreading the football around, but there comes a time when those players leave for the National Football League.
That time is now, and West Virginia University is unsure at quarterback, armed with numbers at wide receiver but with no real proven commodities, and looking as if its strength may well be in a running game that is deep in runners and which may house the team’s best player in offensive tackle Quinton Spain.
With that in mind changes are being made and they are not necessarily subtle changes, for Ron Crook was brought in to run the O-line from Stanford, where power football was a way of life and where double teams are used to create lanes that previously were created in space.
“He comes from Stanford, which is a big power school and emphasizes the run game,” said senior Pat Eger. “Crook is big on double teams. We didn’t do that as much last year. He says any time you can get a double team he wants it because we’re moving people off the ball and getting seams for the running backs.”
Crook is not ready to say the change in the running philosophy is simply to toughen up the team.
“I think it’s trying to play within the strength of our personnel. We have some big, physical lineman who want to come off the football. They want to play that way. I think it’s an advancement in the offensive philosophy,” he said.
“They had a lot of success here running the offense the way they ran it before but, Coach (Dana) Holgorsen wanted to do things a little bit differently to match our personnel better.”
The problem, as camp begins, is that much is up for grabs on the offensive line. While Spain holds down the left tackle spot and Curtis Feigt holds down the right tackle job, the three inside spots are wide open.
The competition is brisk and the players eager.
“Everything has come along very well from what we’ve seen out of those guys in the summer,” Crook said. “They look bigger, they look stronger and they look more fit. They move well, and they’ve got more quickness to them and more agility, so our strength staff did a great job with them all summer. The guys did a great job buying into what we’ve been talking to them about and teaching them to do. The whole team has had a great summer.”
Senior Pat Eger may be most interesting of all. Last spring he was moved to center after having played both tackle and guard and it was assumed he would probably wind up starting there, but he really could do no more than familiarize himself with the position in the spring due to a foot injury.
Now, he instead finds himself the backup to Mark Glowinski at right guard.
“In the spring we worked Pat Eger in there a lot and he learned to play the position. Tyler Orloski has come a long way in learning the offense, put on some weight and gotten a lot stronger, so we’re excited about him,” Crook said, now listing Orloski as the first-team center.
“We wanted Eger to learn the position. He’s played a lot of positions here, he’s played a lot of football. Now that he understands that position and feels comfortable there, we want to give him a chance to get at his best position and find out what that is. I’m still trying to find that out. We want to find his niche and see if he’s one of the top five and fits in there.”
In other words, they just aren’t sure what to do with him and are going to make that a priority as they try to figure out who goes where.
“Eger expects to be a starter on this team. He’s going to get the opportunity to go out and earn a starting spot. I expect him to be on the field and play for us a lot. If he’s not on the field for the first snap, he’ll be out there soon after,” Crook promised.
One player who is muscling his way toward the starting left guard spot is Marquis Lucas, a redshirt freshman currently running with the ones.
“I don’t know if I would say he was the biggest change, but it’s definitely clear that it’s very important to him right now,” Crook said. “You can tell with his approach, mentally and physically, and with the gains he’s made over the summer. He’s had a great work ethic all year. He’s definitely a guy we’re expecting big things out of this year.”
But no jobs are being handed out at present.
“He has been working with the first team, but, again, that will remain very fluent throughout the preseason camp,” Crook said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bhertzel.