Joe Wickline has a had quite a task this offseason in determining who is going to replace his veteran starters from a year ago.
Tyler Orlosky, a leader on the offensive line and the center for the Mountaineers, will be the biggest hole to fill. Wickline will also have to replace the entire left side of the line and their backups. This is not going to be an easy task considering everything the offensive line accomplished last year.
Last season, Wickline produced the No. 2 offensive line in the Big 12 in fewest sacks allowed. His group also paved the way for the offense to average 485.5 yards per game of total offense (No. 17 nationally), 228.4 yards rushing per game (No. 25 nationally) and 257.2 yards passing per game (No. 42 nationally). The offense rushed for more than 200 yards in eight games and for more than 300 yards in four games. With Wickline’s help, the Mountaineers also produced four different running backs with 100 or more yards in a game.
Although last season’s accomplishments will be hard to replicate, this year’s squad could be even better.
Left Tackle – r-Jr Yodney Cajuste (6’5” 308lbs) has battled knee injuries since his redshirt freshman year against Baylor but did return for the Cactus Bowl. He then suffered a season ending knee injury in the first game in 2016 against the Missouri Tigers. If he can stay healthy, he can lock down that left side.
Left Guard – r-Sr Kyle Bosch (6’5” 310lbs) has started all 26 games for the Mountaineers at right guard since coming to Morgantown, but he will move over to the left side of the line in 2017 as an All Big XII lineman.
Center – r-So Matt Jones (6’2” 319lbs) was the backup to Tyler Orlosky in 2016. He has seen limited action in his time at West Virginia but won the job in the spring and I expect him to keep the job through fall camp.
Right Guard – r-Sr Grant Lingafelter (6’6 306lbs) has been seeing action since his redshirt freshman year and has added depth to both guard and tackle positions. He will take the starting position and add depth across the line in case of an injury.
Right Tackle – Colton McKivitz (6’7” 307lbs) had his name called early last year after Yodney Cajuste went down with his knee injury. He went on to start 10 games for the Mountaineers.
That’s the starters how I see it at the start of the fall camp. Now let’s look at who is going to be in contention for the starting spots and adding depth to this unit.
Ray Raulerson r- Jr (6’4” 295lbs) transferred from Tennessee in 2016 and sat out his Sophomore year to fill the NCAA transfer rule requirements. He added depth at guard and center for the Volunteers. I expect him to be the backup center and add depth at the guard positions for West Virginia.
Josh Sills r-Fr (6’6” 320lbs) was all state first team in Ohio. I believe Wickline will move him to tackle but can be versatile enough to add depth to the guard position.
Chase Behrndt r-Fr (6-3 307lbs) was a first team offensive guard in Missouri. The coaching staff will try to move him to tackle and will also add depth to the guard position.
Kelby Wickline r-So (6-4 281lbs) will add immediate depth for the offensive tackles. Was a top ten offensive tackle in the junior college ranks.
Jacob Buccigrossi r-Fr (6’3” 293lbs) won the backup center roll in the spring but went down to an injury. He could win that spot back and will add depth to the guards.
Rob Dowdy r-So (6’4” 299lbs) was on the two deep for right tackle during the 2016 season.
Alec Shriner r-So (6’4” 306lbs) is moving from the defensive side of the ball to add depth to the guard position. He was one of the best offensive guards in the nation coming out of high school.
Zach Davis r-Fr (6’2” 300lbs) will have to fight to make the two deep. The walk-on from St. Mary’s, West Virginia will probably have to wait a couple more years to make an impact on the offensive front.
Tyler Thurmond Fr (6-5 280lbs) was one of the best guards coming out of the state of Georgia. I don’t see Tyler making it out onto the field his freshman year. I think he sits out a year with a redshirt along with walk on freshman Adam Stilly (6’1” 250lbs) out of Martinsburg West Virginia.
This year’s offensive line as a whole is not very deep, as far as experience goes, but history has shown threat Wickline can make adjustments on the fly.
I have faith in Joe Wickline to get the offensive line ready for the 2017 season and still be one of the best offensive lines in the country. With new quarterback Will Grier under center and the stable of running backs the Mountaineers possess, this unit is primed to pave the way for even better numbers in 2017.