MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The prevailing reason recruiting junior college players is so popular at West Virginia University is that those players, who are one or two seasons removed from the size and speed of high school football, are better able to play right away.
There are exceptions. Right guard Mark Glowinski is the explanation.
The fifth-year senior transferred from Lackawanna (Pa.) College in 2012 and sat out as a redshirt. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
“Going into his senior year, he’s as good an offensive guard as I’ve seen,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Remember, Glowinski teams with fifth-year senior Quinton Spain, who is the left guard with greater billing and with spots on a pair of national award preseason watch lists. Glowinski is a guy who’s built himself into no worse than Spain’s equal, and that was no small task for the 6-foot-5, 310-pounder.
“Coming in, there were many days we had our Sunday night football stuff and I looked at him like, ‘Boy, did we make a mistake here,’” Holgorsen said. “He couldn’t play two or three plays in a row. He was breathing hard. He was struggling and just did not look good.”
That was then, and what happened then helped make Glowinski a legitimate NFL prospect.
“When you first get here, you want to play, but you get an understanding that you have a lot of guys older than you who have more experience and it’s their time,” he said. “You understand it’s going to take time, so (a redshirt) is going to benefit you.”
Now he and Spain are the pillars of the plans WVU has to run power plays and swing the guards around the line of scrimmage to blast open lanes for running backs. It almost never happened.
Spain arrived late as a freshman in 2010, which kept him from playing that season. That was a possibility that had been discussed despite the difficulty inherent for all true freshmen up front because Spain was thought to be that good that soon. Had he played, he would have been a senior last season and gone this season. Spain still had a chance to leave after the 2013 season, but decided not to enter the NFL draft.
Glowinski would be gone now, too, if he played in 2012 simply because he was a junior college player. That would have been a loss for the Mountaineers, because they relied so much on him last season and knew he could do more this season. No one played more than Glowinski’s 842 plays last season. There were five games in which he took more than 80 snaps in the middle of the game’s most menacing action.
“He’s exactly what you want,” Holgorsen said.
Glowinski said he would have been content having that as his senior season, but knew he would have left so much behind in 2014 if he had played just a little in 2012. There is a difference in a player’s fifth season, a strength that comes from being a 22-year-old going against players who are younger and smaller.
“It gives you that sense that you’re more experienced, a little older and maybe a little wiser, and that gives you more drive,” he said. “You know it’s your last year, too. Having more games and being on a college football team is one of the biggest and the best things to happen to me. It’s a privilege and I just try and treat it that way.”
WVU would like to get junior college receivers, running backs, defensive linemen, linebackers, defensive backs and even punters on the field as quickly as possible. Most of the time, they’ve been recruited because there is a need and there isn’t a lot of time to spend waiting around on someone else to develop into the player the junior college transfer is thought to be.
It’s different on the offensive line, and the transition for high school linemen and junior college lineman is very similar. Most need and probably deserve a full year to get used to Division I, the demands of a program, the necessity of strength and conditioning and the style of the game.
The Mountaineers will continue to try and do for other junior college linemen what they did for Glowinski. Stone Underwood was a touted junior college center who redshirted last season. Now a guard as well as a center, he was WVU’s top backup lineman before he hurt his shoulder a week ago.
“He wasn’t quite ready that first year, but now he’s going into his redshirt junior year as a guy who can contribute,” Holgorsen said.
WVU signed junior college lineman Sylvester Townes in February, but had him on campus a month before that and with the team in spring football. There was some thought he might earn one of the starting tackle spots or at least secure a backup spot, but Holgorsen said he, too, will redshirt.
The Mountaineers can do that because they have a large number of offensive linemen, but they want to do that so they can produce players like Glowinski.
“I think a lot of it has to do with what the position is, but he needed that year,” Holgorsen said. “I imagine a year from now when we’re talking about Sylvester Townes, we’ll be talking about the same things.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.