MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s first preseason scrimmage produced an offensive line shuffle.
“I feel good about four guys up front,” Neal Brown told the media on Wednesday. “I’m not gonna name names.”
He didn’t have to.
After what coaches deemed a poor performance from Chase Behrndt in Saturday’s scrimmage, all-Big 12 guard Josh Sills was moved to center. Sills, who hasn’t played center since high school, has been practicing at the position since Monday.
“I had Chase at center and he kind of went into a slump,” said offensive line coach Matt Moore. “Too many high snaps in the scrimmage. Sills played center in high school. He’s done a really good job. He’s been making the calls.”
John Hughes, a transfer from Navarro Junior College, has been practicing with the No. 1 offensive line at Sills’ former right guard spot. Hughes had been working as Kelby Wickline’s backup at right tackle.
“He’s probably not naturally a guard, but he does have good bend,” Moore said. “From the time we signed him in January, I thought he had a chance to be a good player on this level. He’s stepping up.”
Brown said Hughes has picked up on the switch quickly.
“He was well-coached at Navarro Junior College,” Brown said.
Moore thinks he will have better luck with Behrndt at guard, which is where the junior played prior to moving to center this spring.
“He’s comfortable at guard,” Moore said. “He had his best practice [Wednesday] working at left guard. Mike Brown got banged up, so we had to work him and [James] Gmiter. He may be a better guard than he is a center.”
It’s still possible that Behrndt could end up starting at right guard rather than Hughes once he gets more reps after switching from center.
Should Sills’ move to center become a permanent one, walk-on Adam Stilley is likely to back him up. The 6-foot, 291-pound Stilley can’t fix the fact he’s undersized for a Big 12 offensive lineman, but has been one of West Virginia’s most consistent player in practice.
“He’s done a really good job,” Moore said of the Martinsburg native. “He’s become a solid backup. He’s been consistent more than anything. He kept himself right in the hunt [to start]. I would trust him to go into a game.”
Brown knows that Sills, Wickline, Mike Brown and Colton McKivitz will all be starting the season opener.
“We know who our top four guys are,” Brown said. “We have to figure out who the fifth guy is. Who the fifth guy is will determine how we’ll look.”