After one week of camp, WVU’s sentiments are pretty unanimous: the Mountaineers have some strength in the trenches.
WVU’s offensive line has been dubbed the strongest piece of the Mountaineer offense with all five starters, including two All-Americans, returning to their starting spots. Those five have a difficult challenge come week one when they face Pitt, whose defensive linemen have some high hopes — even stating they aim to be the best unit in Panther history.
“They’re going to be the top, so they say, in the country, but we feel like we’re going to be one of the top O-lines in the country too,” said WVU guard James Gmiter. “I think the biggest thing is that they say they’re going to be the best, and we say we’re going to be the best, so that’s like the big motivation right there.”
Luckily for the Mountaineers, they spend their fall camp competing against the WVU defensive line, which also has some high potential. Led by Dante Stills, a fifth-year poised to etch his name in WVU’s record book, the D-line boasts the lowest amount of personnel turnover on the defense.
Stills and his crew have a similar task on Sept. 1 when they face the Pitt offensive line. The Panthers also bring five starters back to the lineup in 2022 and hope to lead their team to an ACC championship repeat.
WVU’s trench battles in practice have created a symbiotic relationship for both units ahead of the Backyard Brawl.
“It definitely helps, because the O-line, it’s literally the same group from last year. You know, add a couple of guys, but it’s literally the same group,” Stills said. “They have great chemistry and they know how to work together, so just going up against them, it definitely helps us in a way because they’ve improved a lot.”
A year can make a whole lot of difference in a unit. WVU’s offensive line definitely went through its struggles in 2021, leading the Big 12 in sacks allowed and sitting last in rushing offense (Neal Brown was quick to not put all of the blame on the offensive line for those stats, however.).
Ahead of 2022, Gmiter says the O-line’s confidence level is “night and day” compared to 2021.
“You can just tell whenever we can step out on the field it’s a big difference,” Gmiter said. “There’s no really doubt that we’re going to get the job done.”