MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The surest thing on West Virginia’s roster this year is an offensive lineman.
Left tackle Colton McKivitz is already the Big 12 cover boy for one preseason magazine – a pretty telling honor given the glitz of a conference that has produced back-to-back Heisman winners at quarterback and has possible candidate to compete for a third in Texas’ Sam Ehlinger.
The combination of McKivitz and right guard Josh Sills gives West Virginia two veteran linemen who are among the Big 12’s best. It’s the other three spots that will determine whether the line as a whole is near the top of the league – or even the bottom.
Here is how West Virginia’s offensive line should look this fall.
As much as McKivitz will be gushed over this offseason, there is one thing to keep in mind – he’s actually changing positions this year. The long-time anchor at right tackle is flipping sides now that Yodny Cajuste is in the NFL. Though his leadership is a given, there’s also a chance it will take the full non-conference schedule for McKivitz to truly find his new footing.
Ubezu redshirted as a freshman, and one gets the sense the coaching staff would like to bubble-wrap McKivitz to give Ubezu another year to learn the ropes.
If Brown excels this season, it will be one of the most fun stories in all of college football. He didn’t play a down in high school, and spent the first two years after traveling the Philippines as one of the world’s largest Mormon missionaries.
Coaches are impressed with how he improved over the spring, but there are no guarantees with a player who is in just his fourth year of organized football.
Mays entered the spring in competition for the starting center job, but saw more reps at guard as practice progressed.
One way or the other, West Virginia must replace starter Matt Jones, who transferred down to FCS Youngstown State to play his final college season in his hometown.
Behrndt seemed to take control of the position this spring, but Buccigrossi was unable to take any reps as he rehabbed a shoulder injury. He may be able to compete for the job if he’s ready to go at the start of August camp.
McKivitz figures to be the iron man of this line, but Sills will be right with him. Last season, McKivitz led the team with 875 offensive snaps. Sills wasn’t too far behind with 835. They will be counted on in similar fashion this season.
Until the incoming class of linemen demonstrates what it can do, the loser of the competition to be the starting center figures to be high on the list to back up Sills as well.
Of all the players to enter the NCAA transfer portal this offseason, Wickline was probably atop most people’s theoretical lists. But he never did. Even though his dad was replaced as WVU’s offensive line coach, Wickline remains happy in Morgantown – and with the starting right tackle spot being his to lose, it’s easy to see why.
OT John Hughes (6-4, 305)
OT Parker Moorer (6-3, 300)
OG Donavan Beaver (6-7, 310)
OT Brandon Yates (6-5, 270)
Most seasons, you can count on freshmen offensive linemen redshirting. There’s arguably no position that requires a greater series of physical and mental adjustments as a player moves from high school to college.
But with West Virginia’s depth being so uncertain, this year’s crop of newcomers will have a chance to work their way into the two-deep.
Hughes is the most experienced with two years of junior college under his belt. He played tackle on both sides and a bit of guard, and is a sophomore in terms of eligibility.
If Moorer impresses in August camp, he could conceivably back up either McKivitz or Wickline. Beaver might back up Sills or Brown.
Unlike his classmates, Yates did not enroll for the first summer session. Combined with the fact his listed weight is about 25 pounds shy of where it will need to be, it stands to reason that he would be in line to redshirt this season.