MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia offensive line coach Matt Moore likes his linemen the same way cable TV likes its politics: divided into right and left with minimal crossover.
In Moore’s philosophy, you are more likely to see a right guard move over to replace an injured right tackle than you would be to see the right tackle flipped over to play the blind side. He thinks it’s easier for a player to switch spots rather than switch their footwork by moving to the other side of the line.
“Especially with younger players and you start moving them left to right, you’re changing your stance, you’re changing your angle of approach, you’re changing your footwork,” Moore said. “It’s a lot easier to keep them on one side. You keep your footwork and just go guard-to-tackle.”
All that said, Moore’s first offensive line at West Virginia will feature a pretty significant right-to-left flip.
With left tackle Yodny Cajuste headed to the NFL, two-year starting right tackle Colton McKivitz will open spring practice as West Virginia’s top left tackle. On the other side, Kelby Wickline will compete for the starting right tackle spot. Wickline filled in at left tackle when Cajuste was ejected from the Texas game, and also started there when Cajuste sat out the Camping World Bowl.
Redshirt freshman Junior Uzebu is slated to be the backup left tackle, while sophomore Tyler Thurmond will open spring as the No. 2 right tackle.
Junior Josh Sills, who has started at both right and left guard in his career, will be on the right side to open the spring. He’ll be backed up by junior Zach Davis.
Left guard will be one of the positions to watch. Junior Michael Brown, who played in four games last season and kept his redshirt, will have a chance to earn a starting spot. So will redshirt freshman James Gmiter, who is being moved from the defensive line.
Center is the position with the most question marks following Matt Jones’ graduate transfer to Youngstown State.
Junior Jacob Buccigrossi backed up Jones last season, but is sitting out spring practice due to shoulder surgery. That will leave junior Chase Behrndt and redshirt freshman Briason Mays alternating snaps throughout the spring.
When Behrndt and Mays aren’t playing center, Moore will get them work at guard, as well. His theory is that if the backup center also happens to be one of the two best guards, then that player should be starting.
“I’ll try to have two centers that are interchangeable,” Moore said.