MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Change is afoot for West Virginia’s offense this week, though fans will have to wait until Saturday to find out just what that entails.
“I do foresee there being some changes in the lineup,” said Mountaineers coach Neal Brown. “The best way I can tell you is if you continue to put stuff on video that’s not good enough, then the change has to be made. If there’s changes, it means those guys didn’t put enough quality on tape, or they’ve been beaten out.”
Following Tuesday night’s practice, WVU released an updated depth chart showing redshirt freshman Briason Mays listed as a potential starting center over Chase Behrndt and true freshman slot receiver Winston Wright as a potential starter over Tevin Bush.
The need for something to change is obvious with the Mountaineers averaging 32 rushing yards per game.
“We’ve got to get some guys in and see what they can do,” said co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore. “You can’t keep the same lineup and expect different things to happen. These next two days of practice can tell us who can perform and who doesn’t.
“You’d like to just keep fighting through with the guys you’ve got. But the performance is so poor that you just can’t do it. If you were average or mediocre, you could say ‘OK, we’ll keep getting better at this spot.’ When you perform as poorly as we have two weeks in a row, you’ve got to make changes. Continuity is going to come later.”
The Mountaineers are 129th of 130 teams nationally in rushing yardage after the first two games, and now face a North Carolina State defense that is allowing only 24.5 yards per game on the ground. Though the Wolfpack compiled those stats against inferior competition in East Carolina and Western Carolina, it does not change the fact the matchup is a bad one if West Virginia doesn’t improve in a hurry.
“If you watched the film and that doesn’t spark you to get better, then you obviously shouldn’t be here,” said offensive lineman Josh Sills. “It was pitiful. We need the drive and hunger every day to get better.”
According to Brown, senior left tackle Colton McKivitz is the only offensive lineman who should feel completely comfortable that he will be starting against the Wolfpack.
“Outside of Colton McKivitz, I’m not real fired up about how any of them are playing,” Brown said. “[Center] Briason Mays, [right guard/tackle] John Hughes, [left guard] James Gmiter, those guys will get some opportunities up front in practice.”
Brown also explained that the offensive line is unfairly singled out since their struggles are the most obvious to the general public.
“O-line is easy to pick on,” Brown said. “Our running backs, tight ends and receivers have been every bit the issue as the O-line in the run game.”
To that end, Alec Sinkfield will likely start at running back Saturday. Sinkfield is leading West Virginia’s current version of a rushing attack with 15 yards per game.
The Mountaineers also hope to provide a steady dosage of Leddie Brown, who missed the first two games due to injury.
“He’s a tough guy,” Neal said of Leddie. “We lack some toughness right now. Missouri was way more physical than us.”
Neal also warned that Leddie may need a few weeks to get into midseason form.
“He’s rusty,” Neal said. “He hasn’t done much football in four weeks.”
Brown also said that true freshmen Ali Jennings and Winston Wright will see their first action at wide receiver against the Wolfpack.
“People want truth,” Brown said of addressing WVU’s issues. “We try to deal with complete honesty here. You show them the video. You can’t lie to them. You confront it with brutal honesty and present it with a plan to get better.”