MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Kelby Wickline is playing one of the most unique roles in college football this season. It’s not right tackle — there’s hundreds of them to go round.
Son of a position coach who wasn’t retained after a coaching turnover? There can’t be too many of those.
Wickline transferred to West Virginia from junior college in 2017 to play for his father, Joe, who was the Mountaineers’ offensive line coach. He was placed in a potentially awkward spot this offseason.
Dana Holgorsen left for Houston, but didn’t take Joe with him. West Virginia hired Neal Brown, who imported Troy offensive line coach Matt Moore to Morgantown. When the music stopped, there was no chair left for Joe Wickline. That left Kelby with a decision to make.
“He had that kind of thing where he thought maybe he didn’t want to stay,” said senior left tackle Colton McKivitz. “But he fought through it. We had a great offseason together, and I think he’s kind of running with it now that he has that right tackle spot.”
Wickline has already done enough moving for a lifetime. As the son of a coach, he’s migrated from Murfreesboro, Tenn. to Gainesville, Fla. to Stillwater, Okla. As a football player, he began his career at UT-San Antonio before heading to Jones County (Miss.) Junior College.
Rather than focus on the instability of the coaching change, Wickline looked at the stability of being in the same place.
“This is my last year. I’m a fifth-year senior. I know all the guys here. Just the relationships, I wanted to stay put. That was the best decision for me,” Wickline said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”
In a way, Wickline’s life experience prepared him to handle the situation as well as he is. West Virginia was his dad’s third job since Kelby began high school. He’s known how that end of the game works since before he was playing football. Even though it was an emotional moment, Wickline seemed to handle the change with the mentality of a coach rather than a player.
“I told him I love him for what he did for me and I loved playing for him,” Kelby said. “But at the end of the day I just wanted to finish out my career the right way and I wished him the best.”
For Moore, the situation is comparably unique. This is no ordinary coaching takeover. So one of the first things he did was let Kelby know how much he respected Joe Wickline as a coach.
Moore has known the elder Wickline since 2002, when Joe recruited one of Moore’s players at Hoover (Ala.) High School.
“We’ve had a relationship since then. I know him. He knows me. Kelby knows that,” Moore said. “That was one of the first conversations I had with Kelby. ‘I know your dad real well. I know he’s a good O-line coach. I’ve [done clinics] with him before.”
Wickline admitted that he was “a little unsure” about the new staff at first. But as he has practiced for Moore, his appreciation is growing.
“I think he’s good on and off the field,” Wickline said. “He’s really good from a coaching aspect. He’s a really big technician. He knows a lot of schematics. And overall I think he cares a lot about his players.”
Now that Moore’s won Wickline over, the relationship is exactly where both sides want it.
“Kelby has no issues,” Moore said. “I treat him just like any other player on the team.”