MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Ron Crook swore that he was different.It was early August, just after West Virginia had begun what would be a month of practice leading up to last week's opener against William & Mary. I sat there one morning and listened to him talk about the need not only to develop depth along the offensive line, but to use it.Yadda, yadda, yadda, I all but told him after listening to his pitch."You know,'' I told Crook, "I've known a lot of offensive line coaches and every one of them has said the same thing. They all talk about how hard it is to play 70 or 80 or 90 snaps a game on the line and how they have to get at least seven or eight guys ready and let them play. And then almost without fail they find five they like and play them until they can't play another down.''
Crook just smiled. He knew exactly what I was talking about. He understood the skepticism.But he also tried to convince me he was different."I know what you're talking about. I've seen it a lot. But I do try to [rest them],'' Crook said. "I think my history has been trying to get guys on the field that deserve to be on the field. Not just to put them out there, but I think if a guy deserves to be on the field, we're going to give him that chance.''Well, turns out Crook wasn't just blowing smoke. He actually did rotate his linemen. He rested them.
In West Virginia's season opener against William & Mary, Quinton Spain, Curtis Feigt, Marquis Lucas, Mark Glowinski and Tyler Orlosky started. It was just one series later that Pat Eger was in the game. A series later, Nick Kindler showed up.And as the day wore on, they did, in fact, rotate. Eger was on the field replacing Lucas and Glowinski at the guard spots. Kindler was there giving Spain and Feigt a rest at tackle. Without having actually charted the line substitutions, it might be safe to say that at almost no point did the same offensive line take the field for consecutive series.Yes, it was exactly what Crook had promised. But that didn't make the actual implementation any more surprising."Yeah, I've never been part of an offensive line that did that before,'' Eger said.
Remember, Eger is a fifth-year senior who has played for three different line coaches.By game's end, West Virginia had run 71 offensive plays and, with the exception of Orlosky, the center, no one had been overtaxed. Orlosky was never replaced, but given the complexities of the position - making both the snaps and the line calls - that's not surprising."It's different when you get somebody in there who isn't used to snapping the ball all the time and isn't used to making the calls,'' Orlosky said. "It's not easy to just switch guys in and out and do that.''
Switching everyone else, though, seemed to go off without a hitch. Aside from depth, line coaches are also always preaching the value of cohesion among offensive linemen, which is perhaps one of the reasons they tend to treat starters as iron men, so as not to disrupt the teamwork. But with the two subs, Eger and Kindler, being fifth-year seniors and among the most experienced linemen in the group, that didn't seem to be an issue.Dana Holgorsen said the entire line still needs a lot of work, but it was a good start."You could tell there was some inexperience with the interior three. They need to be dominating in that situation,'' the Mountaineers head coach said. "They were at times. We talked to them about consistency and we talked about growing up and to quit using inexperience as an excuse."Pat Eger came in and gave us some experience with those three guys. That's why we put him in a variety of spots in the interior three. He'll bring that experience.''And he, along with Kindler, will bring rested legs."Playing as many snaps as we do with a fast-paced offense, it's good to have guys with fresh legs in there,'' Eger said. "I mean, you always see the receivers running in and out, but usually it's the same five linemen. It's nice to keep your legs fresh during a game.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.