MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Adam Pankey owns more career ejections than he does starts, and Marquis Lucas is transitioning back to the spot he last played in high school … in 2010.

Yet these are the far-and-away frontrunners at offensive tackle as West Virginia prepares for Saturday’s Gold-Blue spring game.

Those are crucial positions, and ones that sorely lack depth. Redshirt freshman Marcell Lazard is one backup, while junior-college signee Sylvester Townes needs to fill out his 6-foot-5 frame before handling Big 12 defensive ends. Another juco transfer, Justin Scott, won’t arrive until summer and developing redshirt freshman Grant Lingafelter left last Saturday’s scrimmage in Charleston with an unspecified leg injury.

So for now, the Pankey-Lucas tandem sits atop the depth chart, presumably by a wide margin. Despite lacking the experience of departed fifth-year seniors Curtis Feigt and Nick Kindler, the new duo provides more athleticism.

Before tearing a knee ligament last spring, Pankey drew raves from Dana Holgorsen and position coach Ron Crook. Though the injury threatened to shelve him for much of the regular season, Pankey’s rehab progressed ahead of schedule and he played in West Virginia’s final eight games.

One of his earliest appearances ended ignominiously—with a targeting ejection for a helmet-to-helmet crack-back block on a Baylor defensive lineman. The stigma from that disqualification vanished rather quickly for a player with months of pent-up aggression.

“It was fun, just getting to hit somebody,” Pankey said.

The former three-star recruit from Ohio should have ample opportunities to strike this season, entrenched at left tackle and entrusted with protecting the blind side of whichever quarterback Holgorsen ultimately chooses.

“I’m not where I need to be yet,” said the 6-foot-6, 304-pound Pankey, whose primary offseason aim is improving his upper-body strength. “I want to be an all-conference player, so I’m setting the bar high.”

On the opposite tackle, the redshirt junior Lucas is acclimating after sending the past three seasons at guard.

“It’s a little different when you’re out there on that island,” he said. “Not having that hand down, you lose power, so you’ve really got to watch for technique.”

Lucas started the first four games of 2013 at left guard, a string that ended with West Virginia’s 37-0 loss at Maryland. That shutout was the cue to move Quinton Spain inside from tackle, and Lucas appeared in six of the final eight games as a reserve.

A three-star prospect out of Miami, Fla., the 6-4, 312-pound Lucas said he’s confident about dealing with edge rushers. “They’re fast, but I feel like my feet are faster.”

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  • uncle C

    Well here we go again everybody talking bad. Lets be positive for a change. Sounds like band wagon fans, ride when winning jump off when not winning. Go errs.

  • Aaron

    The key to the line this year will be in how well they adjust to the much simpler, zone blocking scheme being implemented by the new line coach. That's the same scheme utilized by Rich Rod that allowed 5 guards to create seams for White and Slaton.

    With a much improved running game, the offense should improve dramatically and if the QB's can improve 3rd down percentage and not turn the ball over, that side of the ball should be fine.

    That's why they play the games though.

    • Frederick

      First, we do not have a new o-line coach. Crook came last year from Stanford. Second, he basically did exactly the opposite of what you suggest. He tried to incorporate more of Stanford-style power blocking with our linemen putting a helmet on a helmet across the LOS. We retained some zone-blocking but saying Crook is new and is going to install the Rodriguez zone blocking scheme is pretty much exactly the opposite of what happened.

      Third, although your description of the Rodriguez line as 5 guards creating seams for White and Slaton is pretty accurate, you fail to acknowledge that then our primary, bread and butter was the zone read option. That was highly successful because: a) Pat White was great at reading the end; b) had one of the best first steps of any QB in college football history; c) was able to make RB style cuts and had great speed; and d) Steve Slaton was the perfect complement in style and had great chemistry with White.

      That scheme, which has next to nothing in common with what we do now, did allow us to run the ball extremely well without dominant o-linemen. But, it's not the scheme we use now and we don't have anything approaching the personnel for it even if we wanted to do it.

      The other thing is that while the Trickett/Rodriguez lines may not have been physically dominant, they were very disciplined and functioned well as a unit. Because of that (and White, Slaton and Schmitt) we could run the ball very well with average o-line talent.

      Now we run a different, offense with very different types in the backfield and discipline and "smarts" on the line is nowhere near what it was under Trickett. I'm not sure the o-line talent is as dramatically different from then as results would suggest, but everything else is.

  • Mohigan #22

    Next to QB, the offensive line is my biggest worry. I hear people hyping Spain and Glowinski but, at best and being very charitable, they were barely adequate last year and neither were "young" (the ever ready, all purpose WVU mantra ever since Holgorsen took over).

    Orlosky was so disappointing we moved Eger to center even though he was a poor snapper and average at best blocking.

    So, hearing tackle is actually considered the problem area on the line causes me to wonder how bad it must be if it is more of a concern than the other positions.

    The defense dominated in the practice I saw (and from reading, the others too) and while it may be improved overall, the defensive line is the weakest and least experienced unit by a considerable margin and let's not kid ourselves, we have to do a ton of improving on defense to even be average.

    If our defense easily dominates our offense, it is scary to think about what could happen against good defenses.

  • jay zoom

    by the end of the season -- same old story -- wait until next year -- THANKS OLLIE

  • Baldeagle

    You mean those 8 games, most of which we lost.

    • Allen

      I would say the defense lost those 8 games.

      • Alex

        DEPTH....lost the 8 games...

  • Mitch

    Last time I checked, Grant Lingafelter is a Guard, not a Tackle.

    • Mister Man

      Check again.