West Virginia center Zach Frazier had a rare opportunity Saturday, becoming one of the first true freshmen to play on WVU’s offensive line in the last few decades.
Frazier started at center in place of Chase Behrndt, who was one of 11 players head coach Neal Brown suspended prior to the game. Fraizer, an in-state product from Fairmont Senior High School, was a part of Brown’s first recruiting class at WVU. As early as signing day, Brown was talking about the possibility of Frazier playing as a true freshman.
“I didn’t think he would go out an start as a freshman, but I thought he did a nice job,” Brown said after the game. “I really like how he competes, I like how he prepares. He loves the game, it’s important to him. I like how he’s real level, doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low.”
If Brown’s description of Frazier sounds familiar to WVU fans, it is probably because it is very similar to how the Mountaineer coach would describe senior left tackle Colton McKivitz last season.
“Colton was a guy that you knew what you were getting every single day and I respected that,” Brown explained. “The same thing I would say about Zach. In the short time that we’ve been here, every day he shows up with the mentality to get better and to work and so they are very similar in that regard.”
McKivitz graduated from WVU having started 47 consecutive games along WVU’s offensive line. In 2019 he was named a first-team All-Big 12 player, the Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year and an All-American. McKivitz was also drafted in the fifth round of the most recent NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and made their roster out of training camp.
“I’m not ready to say Zach Frazier is Colton McKivitz, because [McKivitz] is on an NFL roster and was a consensus All-American last year, but from a mentality standpoint [they are] similar,” Brown said.
Brown also said that he thinks the way WVU had to practice with split squads throughout training camp due to COVID-19 precautions actually helped Frazier.
“The way we did our practices… he got so many reps and our defense is difficult to play against,” Brown explained. “He went against Darius [Stills] every day, every single day. If we kept score, Darius probably won, but Zach won his fair share. Day after day of going against Darius, I think he got better.”
Like McKivitz, Stills — another in-state player from Fairmont Senior — was a first-team All-Big 12 pick last season. Stills was also a finalist for the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year award and has been selected as the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year for 2020. For Frazier to win any reps against Stills speaks to his college readiness.
With Behrndt set to return following the one-game suspension, how much playing time Fraizer could get the rest of this season is a little up in the air. Either way, his mindset should serve him well during the rest of his freshman season at WVU.
“I think [Frazier] is a special kid and he’s mature beyond his years from his preparation,” Brown said. “I think that he’s going to play a lot of football here.”