Once again, West Virginia’s running game is as solid as can be and a lot of the success can be credited to the offensive line.
Through four games, the offensive line has paved the way for 924 total rushing yards. The unit made a statement in the team’s win over Kansas by blocking for two 100-yard rushers in running backs Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy against a tough Kansas defensive line.
“I thought we ran-blocked pretty well as well against a decent front,” West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “When you have a couple of 100-yard rushers, that’s not just (No.) 25 and 4 being good players, which they are, but we had some space in there as well.”
The offensive line’s impact has been felt in the passing game as well, allowing just five sacks this season and only one against the Jayhawks.
“I thought the pressure was limited,” Holgorsen said. “We had one sack, which was the second play of the game where Will (Grier) rolled out of there and it should have been an easy completion but they played it pretty well.”
What has stood out the most from West Virginia’s offensive line is its ability to rise to the occasion, overcome adversity and replace key players without missing a beat.
Those abilities were showcased against the Jayhawks with some grit.
“The best part of Kansas’ team, and it was not even close, was their (defensive) line,” Holgorsen said. “And our (offensive) line kind of was tired of hearing about it and stepped up to the plate and played pretty well, in my opinion.”
Though the offensive line has suffered some injuries, the unit hasn't slowed down.
Redshirt freshman Josh Sills has stepped in for the injured Grant Lingafelter at guard for the past three games and has proved his worth to the unit. First-year starter Matt Jones has also served as a solid leader and replacement at center for Tyler Orlosky.
Despite the progress of the starters and some of the backups, depth still remains a concern for the offensive line moving forward, but that will improve when Lingafelter and backup center Jacob Buccigrossi return full-time. Both players are currently day-to-day.
“We still need depth,” Holgorsen said. “Getting Grant (Lingafelter) back is important, getting (Jacob) Buccigrossi back is important.”
Along with getting Lingafelter and Buccigrossi coming back from injury soon, West Virginia is also working to develop more backup offensive linemen with the goal of improving the unit’s depth.
“We’re still trying to develop (redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Kelby) Wickline,” Holgorsen said. “We’re still trying to develop (junior offensive lineman Isaiah) Hardy, so we have some guys to work with this week to try to get a little bit better.”
West Virginia’s offensive line and depth will be put to the test throughout the rest of the season when it faces hard nosed Big 12 defenses in TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Only then will we find out what this position group and offense as a whole is made of.