West Virginia offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh is slowly but surely stocking his cupboard. Last year, after just a month and a half on the job, Bedenbaugh was able to quickly sign three promising offensive line prospects in Marquis Lucas, Russell Haughton-James and Brandon Jackson.
Earlier this month, Bedenbaugh added four more pieces to the puzzle by inking junior college tackle Mark Glowinski and freshmen Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky and Adam Pankey. Bedenbaugh would have taken even more if Coach Dana Holgorsen would have let him.
"I'd like to get about four or five more. I tried to convince him but he wasn't going for it,” Bedenbaugh joked recently. “The more guys you have the better off you are and we saw it this year at times with class conflicts, guys getting hurt and guys not performing up to where we wanted them to.”
The program’s lack of O-line depth was beginning to rear its ugly head late in the season in closer-than-expected wins against Cincinnati, Pitt and South Florida - especially during the preparation leading up to those games.
“We would practice with six or seven guys, so it wasn't necessarily the games that took toll on people, it was practice,” he said. “Now we're in a situation where hopefully we've got 10 bodies that we can go out there and practice with every day."
Last year, Bedenbaugh was working with only six or seven game-ready players. He hopes that number can swell to 10 or 11 by the time fall training camp rolls around. Junior college transfer Mark Glowinski may be the one new player in this group ready to immediately challenge for a spot in the rotation.
“It was important that we add a guy who we feel can push to start," said Bedenbaugh, who noted that he has had only two true freshmen play during his 18-plus seasons as a college coach. "Mark has to be ready. He's got two years to play and he's coming in here to play and obviously he's got to earn it. Can the other three do it? It's pretty tough."
Bedenbaugh said Glowinski was a player who carefully weighed his options and took his time to come to the right decision.
"Mark was a guy that went through the process,” said Bedenbaugh. “He wasn't a kid who committed to the first spot he had. He went out and researched it, got a bunch of offers, took three or four visits and then found the best place for him. I'm very excited that he chose here.”
The three offensive linemen West Virginia signed out of Ohio all played for outstanding high school programs. More importantly, Bedenbaugh says they all come from terrific families with great support systems.
"They're well-coached, they're tough kids and they come from good programs,” he mentioned. “That's not the only determining factor, but with these kids, and getting to know every single one of them, they've got great families. They were brought up the right way. They've got good support at home, their parents look after them and that's another part of this deal.
“You can't just look at a five-play highlight tape and say 'wow that kid is going to be a great player.' It doesn't work that way,” Bedenbaugh added. “There are just so many more factors that go into recruiting a kid."
Specifically, does that player match what you are trying to do?
"You try and find the best players who fit whatever it is you're looking for,” Bedenbaugh said. “In this class, probably more than any that I've had, these guys do have the versatility to play and that's just an added bonus to be able to play other positions. We had been on Pankey for a while and he committed to another school and he said he was done and I was good with that.
“Then some things changed and we were the first school to get back on him and he appreciated that. We showed him how much we wanted him and he came down here and loved it,” Bedenbaugh said. “I think if he would have come down here in the spring like he was supposed to he would have come here in the first place, but he didn't get a chance to make it."
All four newcomers are in the 6-4, 6-5 range and have frames to easily carry more than 300 pounds. By fall camp, Bedenbaugh could be working with as many as 12 or 13 300-pounders this year.
"We've got big guys here before I was here, but every system is different,” Bedenbaugh explained. “What you recruit to is different. We're probably not going to recruit as many offensive linemen that Georgia Tech is going to recruit (Georgia Tech runs an option offense). These guys are all 6-4 and up, they're all 295 and up, and they've all got room to actually get bigger, which is hard to say with a kid who is 300 pounds right now.
"Generally the taller you are the longer your arms are. I said when I first got here your ideal offensive lineman is 6-3 with 6-7 arms, but you just don't find that,” Bedenbaugh said. “Naturally you're going to get taller guys because that translates into longer arms.”
Bedenbaugh says he appreciates working for a head coach who understands the value of recruiting high-quality offensive linemen. In turn, that allows the program time to develop them.
"He understands the importance of taking three to five kids every year and build that depth and continue to get young kids and bring them up through your program so by the time they are juniors they've been in your system and they're ready to start for two years,” Bedenbaugh explained. “But some of these other kids are going to have to start next year after redshirt, just because we are going to lose four or five kids next year."