MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While reviewing his first season at West Virginia, offensive line coach Ron Crook pinned the harshest critique on himself.

So intent on establishing the power-blocking mentality he brought from Stanford, Crook sensed he might have short-changed the pass-protection reps for a line that featured three new starters. West Virginia wound up allowing 2.33 sacks per game, which ranked 85th out of 123 FBS teams and eighth in the Big 12 conference.

Those images of a woozy Clint Trickett or a blind-sided Paul Millard? Crook prefers to see far fewer of those in 2014.

“The No. 1 thing we’ve got to do a better job of is pass protection, and that’s mostly my fault,” he said. “I emphasized the run a lot when I got here, and we got better in our run game, but now we’ve got to get better protection so that we can become a better offense.”

West Virginia once again will be replacing three starters along the offensive front, though several returnees have game experience. Their offseasons have been marked by reliving—and examining the causes—of pass-protection breakdowns from last season.

“We talk about it at our meetings, we watch the cut-ups, we go through the mistakes and talk about how we’ve got to improve,” Crook said. “After their workouts, they’re working on pass sets, staying square in their alignments as defenders rush off the edge.”

Come Sunday, when spring practice begins, Crook will have his unit in helmets—eager to see who gleaned the most from those winter lessons.

The guard spots appear to be the domain of fifth-year seniors Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski, whom head coach Dana Holgorsen casually referenced last week as one of “the better guard combinations in the country.”

Both started every game last season, though Spain spent the first three weeks at left tackle and returned outside for most of the Kansas game after Curtis Feigt suffered a knee injury. Spain, the most physically gifted lineman on the roster, has 25 consecutive starts to his credit, while Glowinski was a junior college standout before spending 2012 as a redshirt.

“They’ve both played a lot of football,” Crook said. “They’re both big, strong, physical, tough players. They’re dominant and we’ve got to work them so they can develop into one of the best guard tandems in the nation, like Coach says.”

Sophomore Tyler Orlosky, who started the first two games of 2013 before senior Pat Eger shifted to center, figures to be more game-ready this time around. Crook said Orlosky was more productive over the last four games when he spelled Eger for stretches.

Behind Orlosky is sophomore Tony Matteo and junior Stone Underwood, a guard-center swing guy who redshirted in 2013 after signing out of junior college.

The competition at tackle projects to be wide-open, with the serviceable Curtis Feigt and one-year starter Nick Kindler having graduated. Redshirt sophomore Adam Pankey, who jumped into the rotation the second half of the season after only seven months removed from ACL surgery, is vying for a spot, as is converted guard Marquis Lucas, who started three games on the interior in 2013.

“(Lucas) came here as a tackle, so he’s used to playing out there,” Crook said. “We’re trying to find the best spot for him. I kind of fought for this (move) because I think he can help us. So let’s put him out there and see what he can do.”

The other candidates at tackle are redshirt freshman Marcell Lazard, who signed with WVU last year over the likes of Florida, Ohio State ad Michigan, and two junior-college signees—Sylvester Townes and Justin Scott.

While Scott won’t arrive until summer, Townes enrolled midyear and has been acclimating to the demands of the offseason regimen.

“He has been a little bit overwhelmed with the workout routine that we put him through, the amount of stuff that we do in the weight room in the morning, and we told him it was going to be that way,” Crook said. “But he’s improved his body. He’s going the right direction and you can see him moving around better.

“Sylvester has got some toughness to him. Football’s important to him, and he wants to be a good player. The things that he’s going through now—learning all the terminology, learning all the footsteps—it’s a process.”

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    They'll have to weigh Ron at the WV Livestock market. He looks like he has been on a pork chop, sausage, cabbage and mash potato/w gravy diet during the winter months. I guess he and Mark Mangino can bump bellies when WVU plays Iowa State. Ha !

    • Allan Taylor

      For one thing, OKANYDAY, I cannot believe in a skinny O-line coach. He's gotta somewhat look the part. For another, Crook is at least an H-back shy of matching Mangino's mass.

  • TruthTeller

    From the looks of Ron he has been more focused on the filling his belly than working on the Offensive line. Maybe take all that food away from him will make he focus on his job more.
    You would think they would work on foot and hand speed. My suggestion, hire a martial arts master to come in and teach methods of blocking arms
    and improving the hand speed of the O-line.

  • Big Larry

    At some point The WVU offensive line has got to improve...

    Will we see it happen in our lifetime?

    • Mister Man

      At some point you should stop posting on here. I hope we see that in our lifetime.

      • Big Larry

        You wont...

        • Bruce

          Well, we can always hope, can't we?

  • MountainMover

    We looked terrible up front most of the year, even giving up sacks and tackles for loss against terrible teams. You can have Peyton Manning back there and it won't matter if we can't protect. Any QB needs time and passing lanes.

  • mad hatter

    am having a hard time getting posted, but i do have comments about the fb staff at wvu
    at this time, we probably have the best staff ever assembled, and if dana plays his cards right, this program will show a good accouting of itself in the big 12.

  • Phil M.

    We will know a lot right out of the gate. Playing Alabama will show how much progress we've made and or how much work we have to do.

    I hope progress is the answer. Keep in mind everybody we may need to move away from air raid football and embrace a more traditional approach.

    We have 3 sets of backs that we can start the season rotating in and out of the game and really wear down some teams. Plus ball control in the Big 12 can reduce the number of posessions for some of these high powered offenses.

    Just think we have Smith and Smallwood, Garrison and Bowie and Shell and Williams. The development of Crook's offensive line will play a major role in the success of this team.

  • ole sasquatch

    Out of all the troubles we had last yr. they all started with the poor performance of our offensive line. Crook is on my watch list this year because he was very quiet last yr. about accepting any blame. He is very lucky Skylar Howard has super quick feet cause he probably will have to extend plays for the main successes we have in the upcoming yr.

  • mad hatter

    having a real hard time posting, but i won't give up, i have a lot to say, and i believe in free speech, and anyone who restricts that, shame on you...
    i have not slandered anyone, and libeled anyone , but i speak the truth and my message needs to be heard.

    • Wow


    • JimJim

      There's no free speech in private business, that's only with the government. You don't have free speech with Metronews. Sorry!

  • mad hatter

    i think our coaching staff gets better and better,,, the addition of Bradley imo, is a huge step forward... Let's hope he's given a key role, and he stays around to help our D.
    as for the offense, let's hope our OL does infact, improve under crook.. I think he's a hard worker, and loves wv.
    We have the best recruiters that we have ever had. Now, it's up to dana to make sure we have consistancy in the staff, and we teach teach teach.

  • The Great Joe Bob

    I'm probably stating the obvious, but both the run blocking and pass blocking looked poor to me last season. Crook: “I emphasized the run a lot when I got here, and we got better in our run game......" I could count the decent runs on one hand, and that's with highly-touted Charles Sims in the RB mix. We need improvement in so many areas...........OL and QB play, and our pass defense has been so porous that every opposing QB looks like a Heisman contender. I think we'll have decent talent this season, and incoming recruits look promising; now it's squarely on the coaches to do their jobs. Let's gooooooo Mountaineers!!!!

    • Protechcpa

      I totally agree. When was the last time we had a dominate or even effective offensive line? Certainly not since RR left. I cannot remember what that was like.

      • ole sasquatch

        Probably when Coach Trickert was here. I still remember the lady from ABC down on the sidelines saying that was the worst crack down she ever witnessed. Coach Trickert had just laid into the line for a bad first Qtr. performance. He got to them early in the games and told the offensive line just how things were going to run for the rest of the game. I for one wished we had that native Marine style West Virginian back.

        • Shawn

          Coach Trickett is one of if not the best O-line coach in the country. Our o lines were dominant under him. Take away slating, white and Schmitt. They were dominant for avon, q, Kay jay as well. wish he would come back here as well

      • tw eagle

        not to disparage the O-line from '04-'06 , but being able to take large splits & zone block nearly all the time certainly helped . . . and having White , Slaton , and Schmitt toting the pigskin didn't hurt either. . . three fast , quick, and savvy runners in the same backfield will put a lot of smiles n EVERYBODY's faces . . .
        pass blocking was a non issue because every pass was a pass/run with White rolling right or left as the play or field position dictated . . . I doubt Holgerson will switch his offensive inclinations to a run option style , but I'd think with Howard & Crest in uniform , and a big stable of efficient runners ready to play , that it might not be a bad idea to at least try that approach . . .

  • 1oldwvufan

    Allen, I like the read!

    For months now, there has been articles written about the QB situation at WVU, and the issues with the defense. My concern with the team going into the 2014 season has been primarily with the OL, for I'm less concerned than most with the QB situation and issues on defense.

    My concern with the OL has little to with Coach Crook, and more to do with OL talent. Does Crook have 10 to 15 offensive linemen that the can put on the field, who can and will play as a unit in both pass and run protection?

    Last year, as you mentioned, Trickett and Childress suffered major injuries. If the blocking isn't improved having 8 QBs on the roster, may not be enough to make it through the season. The lack of OL play last season, was a big part of the issues the QBs were having.

  • jay zoom

    someone better protect someone and that includes protecting crooks job.

    • 1olewvufan

      Actually, I don't believe Crook is the problem. 2014, is really his first year of recruiting for WVU. My concern is does he have the talent he needs to create a good OL. I'm not sure he does. I feel it will take him at least another year or two get the talented he needs to create a cohesive OL that can play together as a unit. I just don't think the talent is there, yet.

      • Mark

        Same could be said for the bottom tier of our 8 QB's but luckily they will be holding clipboards. Great to see WV kids getting a chance but the quality is just not there. Thankfully we have some strong recruiters in place.

  • tw eagle

    WVU is still two years away from completing a self -sustaining group of offensive linemen . . . the numbers & talent level keep growing . . . barring injuries , this group should have a very good season in 2014. . .
    have a nice spring guys : flexibility , lateral agilty , anticipation & remembering that the low man always has leverage . . .
    Who's the 'groundhog' ?

  • pinball wizzard

    It will take a much smarter man than i , to actually say what is the most important part or position on a team... most likely , the qb, he does run the show, handles the ball the most, makes most of the decisions, so , yes i guess his positon is the most NB..
    But, then who does he rely on ,, the OL, and the rb's rely on the OL... but then how important are the cb's,, the DLmen, the LB's, safetys... we have seen over the last two yrs, if we dont have a decent def. , the off. can't necessarily even the score.., as dana says, 3 sides of the ball, a team effort to make it work.
    but yes, if there is one key , it's the qb positon. I just remember pat white making something out of nothing play after play,,with an average off. line,,, so.

    • 1olewvufan

      Pinball, it is all important. While I do have concerns that the OL still lacks the talent Coach Crook needs, my biggest concern right now is how the coaches are assigned on defense.

      I believe the talent on defense is there, I truly do. If Holgorsen moves Fr. Davonte James to DE, as he said he was in his recent interview, this is a good move. I do have depth concerns pertaining to the DL. I look for Christian Brown, Kyle Rose, and Darrien Howard to starters on the OL, but I'm not sure the depth is there.

  • Dub V Fan

    It goes without saying that for success this upcoming season, better QB play is needed. However, better QB play hinges on the blocking success of the OL. So, Mr. Crook....get em ready !!! GO EERS !!!