MORGANTOWN — No position room has seen bigger growth under WVU head coach Neal Brown over the last three years than the offensive line, and that’s one of the reasons the Mountaineers’ big fellas up from are expected to be one of the most improved units on the team.
In Brown’s first year in 2019, there was almost no depth and the play on the field reflected that with one of the worst seasons in school history in rushing production, but it made a big leap last year in Year 2.
Running back Leddie Brown rushed for over 1,000 yards, and the Mountaineers were also solid in pass protection for quarterback Jarret Doege.
Still, depth was a concern, but through the third recruiting cycle under Neal Brown, the numbers are starting to stockpile with scholarship linemen, and offensive line coach Matt Moore said he wants 10 players who can rotate in and out without much drop off. Easily put, he wants a two-deep he can trust on the depth chart.
Right now, Moore believes his second string may be as good as his 2019 starters with the exception of former Big 12 lineman of the year Colton McKivitz.
“I’m really excited about this group. I think we’ve got the highest ceiling since I’ve been here,” Moore said. “We’re not there yet. We’re a little bit up and down. Sometimes we really look good, sometimes we really don’t look so good, but I’m excited about the effort we’re playing with, the physicality we’re playing with and our communication has gotten way better.”
Brown said last Saturday after the team’s first scrimmage of fall camp there were a few procedural issues up front with the backup offensive line, but overall, is happy with how depth is continuing to build. He said one more recruiting cycle — the class of 2022 — should put his numbers and depth where he expected it to be when he took over the job in 2019.
“We’re still a year away from having the number of bodies but we are improved,” Brown said Tuesday. “Now, we’ve got to go out and do it against good people and we’re going to get challenged early. I think we’re at 7-8 guys that are ready to play where teams that are competing for championships are at 10-12. But I believe there is great chemistry and continuity between those top seven or eight guys.”
Four of the five positions are all but wrapped up — Brandon Yates at left tackle, James Gmiter at left guard, Zach Frazier at center and Doug Nester at right guard — with the likes of Ja’Quay Hubbard, Nick Malone and Jordan White filling in backup spots.
Where the battle is heating up is at right tackle between redshirt sophomore Parker Moorer and true freshman Wyatt Milum. Moorer has the edge will experience, playing toward the end of last season, mainly at guard, but Milum has a strong pedigree as one of the top offensive line recruits WVU has ever gotten.
A product of Spring Valley, Milum is currently working with the second team, but that doesn’t mean the job is lost.
“It’s a battle. Wyatt’s really come in and done a really good job being ready to play, knowing the offense and just playing with outstanding effort,” Moore said. “Parker has made himself way better over the past year. That competition will do it. That’s what it’s all about.”
Just a year ago, Frazier became the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for the Mountaineers in over 40 years. Milum looks to become the second in as many seasons.
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