MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Collegiate nose guards are very big, usually north of 300 pounds, and very strong, Big 12 nose guards especially so. A fact that WVU’s freshman center, Briason Mays, is learning through experience.
Since many of the teams in the Big 12 similar defensive schemes, using three safeties and three down lineman, the ability to block nose guards is an important factor for conference success.
“That’s kind of what the league’s going to,” WVU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore said. “There’s very little non-zero nose, which just puts a premium on the center position. Unfortunately, we’ve got a really young guy there who’s having to take his lumps and learn.”
In the team’s past three conference games, Mays has faced three straight senior nose guards who are all over 300 pounds. At 6’3″ and 300 pounds Mays is not small but in consecutive games, he has faced Ray Lima (6’3″, 305 lbs.) from Iowa State, Oklahoma’s Neville Gallimore (6’2″, 302 lbs.) and Bravvion Roy (6’1″, 333 lbs.). Including freshman Keondre Coburn (6’2″ 340 lbs.) from Texas, Mays has gotten a crash course in dealing with big, strong lineman.
“Those guys are all redshirt senior, draftable nose guards,” Moore said. “That’s what I’ve talked to him about, ‘man, you’re trial by fire right now’. But at the same time, he’s got to continue to get better each week.”
As a first-year starter, Big 12 teams have been trying to pick on Mays in protection by, in part, using big, disruptive nose guards.
“It’s one of those things, once you put it on film that you have a difficult time with a head-up nose, then guess what you’re going to find, you’re going to get a head-up nose,” head coach Neal Brown said. “So until we do a better job versus those head-up noses then that’s what we’ll continue to see.”
While nose guards do not always tally a lot of tackles for loss or sacks themselves, the disruption they can cause and attention they demand from blockers will affect what an offense can do. Against Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor, WVU’s largest rushing output was 51 yards versus the Cyclones. Against Oklahoma, the team had 41 yards rushing and against Baylor only 14.
“You’ve got to do what you can to help (Mays),” Moore said. “After the second drive (at Baylor), we started working our protection so we can help him a lot and that made a difference in our protection.”
The gauntlet does not end this week, as Texas Tech has senior Broderick Washington Jr. (6’3″, 305 lbs.). Washington has 29 tackles this season, 5.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks.
Moore said in a stretch like this for Mays there are a few things the coaching staff can do to help him through it.
“You try to do several things as a coach,” Moore said. “You want him to know that you have confidence in him and believe in him, but at the same time you’ve got to try to up the competition level and try to find some guys who can push him a little bit and see what some other guys can do.”
West Virginia versus Texas Tech kicks-off at noon in Milan-Puskar stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN2.