It remains to be seen if freshmen Tyler Orlosky
and Adam Pankey
can stay in the offensive line rotation, but from what he’s observed so far, veteran offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh believes the two have pretty impressive futures ahead of them at West Virginia.
Orlosky comes from Ohio prep powerhouse St. Edward High, where he helped them win a state title during his junior season in 2010. He earned Cleveland Plain Dealer all-star honors and was rated the third-best prospect in Northeast Ohio following his senior season.
Pankey’s high school team wasn’t quite as good as Orlosky’s, but he brings with him an equally impressive set of personal credentials. Pankey helped his high school team average more than 300 yards per game while earning second team all-Ohio honors as a senior.
Both had several college suitors before choosing WVU.
“Tyler comes from St. Edwards, which is one of the top programs in Ohio,” said Bedenbaugh. “When Tyler was a junior they won the state championship. Adam comes from Hamilton, which has been a down program, but they got a new coach and I really like him. They do a great job with those guys coaching and teaching.”
The impressive foundation those two players have – along with outstanding size and athleticism - have helped them become contenders in a reasonably deep Mountaineer offensive line. What makes the two so unusual is the fact that they have been able to handle everything thrown at them so far, which Bedenbaugh admits is atypical of most true-freshmen offensive linemen.
“Our defense, with what they are doing moving and slanting and blitzing and how we put our offense in in three days - it is a simple offense, but for freshmen it’s not simple,” Bedenbaugh said. “But for those guys to be able to execute their assignments, that’s the most impressive thing to me.
“Obviously technique takes time to develop, just because we are different than what they did in high school, but they don’t miss assignments,” the coach added. “If a freshman goes the wrong way you don’t get a play off, so the quarterback doesn’t go through his reads, the receivers don’t catch balls and running backs don’t get their reads.”
Pankey, especially, is big enough and strong enough to overcome mistakes to still move people. He is listed at 332 pounds, which makes him the second-biggest offensive lineman on West Virginia’s roster behind starting left tackle Quinton Spain
In fact, West Virginia will likely field an all-300-pound offensive line for the first time since Don Nehlen last coached the Mountaineers in 2000. Having all those big guys up front to move people out of the way in the running game or to protect quarterback Geno Smith
in the passing game is a big deal, says Bedenbaugh.
“But the most important thing is athleticism, because that can make up for some technical issues,” he said. “But you take a guy like Adam Pankey
, who right now technically isn’t great – he’ll get there, but he came from an option offense so he tends to bury his head and throw his arms outside and do those things that are bad technique, yet he’s so big, so massive and so athletic that he can recover. When a smaller guy does that he’s done. He’s beat and he’s going to whiff. We want big guys like him. He is the ideal size for me.”
Bedenbaugh said his first preference is to redshirt all of his true freshmen linemen but if they are able to play, and they can help West Virginia win this year, he has no qualms about putting them into the game.
“If you take the two freshmen – I’ve coached a lot of guys who are pretty good players and played in the NFL – but I’ve never seen two guys on one team step up into a backup role as true freshmen on the O-line this early and for our offense to still be able to work,” Bedenbaugh said. “With freshmen they can wear down, but I think these guys’ mentality is to be on the field, and if that’s your mentality, you’re going to study and work it.”
Both Pankey and Orlosky are currently working at the guard positions behind starters Jeff Braun
and Josh Jenkins
- On getting closer to having the numbers he needs to comfortably get through a season without having his starters wear down: “I think we’re good numbers wise. I think we would probably like to have one more scholarship guy, but 15 is good,” he said. “Now you can have a whole bunch of numbers but not quality, but what I think we are getting to is the quality numbers. That’s what impresses me the most and that’s what excites me.”
- On the emergence of junior Curtis Feigt
at right tackle, batting it out with returning starter Pat Eger
: “A guy like Feigt - you earn the opportunity to be first, second or third team - that’s what you do, and Feigt has been practicing really well so he’s earned the opportunity to get reps with the first team. We’ll see, but that forces Pat, Braun and everybody else to play better. Nick Kindler
is starting to earn an opportunity to get reps with the first team. Hopefully what that does is it forces (Quinton) Spain and Jenkins to play better.”
Bedenbaugh indicated that several other young offensive linemen still remain in the mix, such as Marquis Lucas
, Russell Haughton-James
and Brandon Jackson
, but they need to step up their games to remain in contention for playing time.
“They’ve got to improve,” he explained. “I’m not down on them by any means, but I’m probably higher on Adam and Tyler than I am down on the other guys. I told everybody that last year we were in a situation where we had to rep these guys. We didn’t have bodies and they had to play. I told them we are bringing guys in here and we are going to give them a chance to play and the guys came in and took advantage of it; some guys haven’t yet.
“It’s up to them.”
- For the first time since probably 2007, West Virginia has enough depth on its offensive line to put out a third group that can line up and competently run the offense. In the past, when the threes got out on the field it typically turned into a demonstration of missed assignments and penalties.
“That’s a great situation,” Bedenbaugh noted of being in the situation to develop a competent third group. “It’s one of those things where coaching any position, especially the offensive line, competition is a coach’s best friend. They sit there and they watch the film. I don’t have to point it out. They see that guy in front of them playing really well, then they better start playing pretty good to get on the field, too.”
- Senior Joe Madsen
continues to impress at center. The Chardon, Ohio resident comes into this season with the most career starts under his belt with 38, and despite being recruited to play in a slightly different offensive system, he has adapted well to the way Bedenbaugh wants him to play.
“He’s prototypical in his height, his weight, his athleticism and all those things. What he understands – and this is what good players do – he understands his perceived weaknesses (his short arms) and (he takes) advantage of it,” Bedenbaugh said. “I wasn’t here for all of this, but he went against (current Washington Redskins defensive lineman) Chris Nield for three years and going against a guy that quality is going to make you a better player.”
- The Mountaineers will continue practicing today and Saturday, will take off Sunday for Fan Day at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility beginning at 1 p.m., and then will resume preseason work on Monday evening.Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History available in bookstores this fall. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.