MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As WVU’s open week progresses, head coach Neal Brown will continue to pay close attention to his offensive line.
The Mountaineers have struggled up front since he arrived in 2019. That season, WVU produced one of the worst rushing offenses in the country.
Currently, West Virginia ranks last in the Big 12 in rushing yards, averaging 111.8 per game, a number that’s roughly 40 yards per game lower than Texas Tech and Kansas, the league’s next two worst teams in that category.
But, it’s hard to develop talent on the offensive line, according to Brown, who called it the “hardest position to get right” during his latest press conference.
The reality is, the Mountaineers don’t have any other options beyond the players who are regular starters.
“What we’re playing is what we’ve got,” Brown said “Those are the people that are ready.”
So far this season, 10 players have appeared in two or more games on the Mountaineer offensive line. Five others made their lone appearance in the 66-0 victory over Long Island. Of the players in that group, Brown said redshirt sophomore Ja’Quay Hubbard is likely the only one who is close to earning more playing time.
Only five linemen have appeared in all six games: redshirt sophomore Brandon Yates, redshirt sophomore Parker Moorer, sophomore Zach Frazier, junior Doug Nester and redshirt junior James Gmiter. True freshman Wyatt Milum has made four appearances, but did not play against Baylor due to injury.
“Those are the best we’ve got, and we’ve got to get them better,” Brown said.
The head coach commended the efforts of Frazier and Gmiter Tuesday, crediting those two players as the standouts at that position. He said Frazier might be playing at “an all-conference level” this season, and that Gmiter is playing “really good football.”
But the rest of the offensive line needs to improve, Brown said, particularly the guys who line up on the right side.
“We gotta play better,” Brown said. “Some of it is a technique issue. Some of it is from a schematic standpoint. We’ve got to take better care of them, which is on me, and we’re repeating some of the same mistakes.”
Last season, the Mountaineers appeared to show improvement on the offensive line. They averaged 135.1 rushing yards per game, nearly double their output in 2019.
As for quarterback protection, WVU allowed 2.1 sacks per game last season, ranking in the top half of the Big 12. At the midpoint in 2021, the Mountaineers are last in the league in that category, allowing 2.67 sacks per game.