MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After listening to junior Yodny Cajuste
talk to reporters for about five or 10 minutes last week, one might get the impression that he’s a movie fanatic.
Several times he referenced watching film, but instead of checking out “The Dark Tower” or “Dunkirk,” he’s been watching a lot of West Virginia football.
His affinity for the big screen started last year soon after he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Missouri in the opener.
On Saturdays when the Mountaineers were on the road, Cajuste said he would watch the games on TV from his couch and a lot of the things that he was being told during the week he could see for himself.
Hopefully, Cajuste can take all of that knowledge and put it to good use this year at left tackle.
Cajuste has an interesting background, getting started in the grid sport late in high school at Florida prep power Miramar High.
He was a basketball player first, but once he stopped growing up but continued to grow out, he was soon talked into going out for the Miramar football team by former Mountaineer player and assistant coach Damon Cogdell.
He was good enough to merit a scholarship at WVU as a 240-pound defensive line prospect, but soon made the switch to offensive tackle. He now weighs a stout 308 pounds.
After redshirting his freshman season in 2014, a much bigger Cajuste appeared in seven games in 2015, starting six and seeing action on 462 offensive plays that season.
WVU ranked 17th nationally in rushing offense and 23rd in total offense that year.
Cajuste’s sophomore year in 2016 was expected to be his breakout season, but those plans were derailed 13 plays into the Missouri game after Tigers defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. rolled over Cajuste’s right knee during a short Justin Crawford
His 2016 was finished.
“It was very hard but I’m past that now,” Cajuste said.
So, how did he get through it? A lot of faith in his trainers, he says, plus a lot of film.
Now, Cajuste is back and ready to team with his replacement last year, sophomore Colton McKivitz
who is now at right tackle, giving West Virginia one of the more athletic tackle tandems in the Big 12. Both have the feet to be able to protect quarterback Will Grier
, especially Cajuste, who has the important task of securing Grier’s backside.
“At the end of the day we want to keep him on his feet and keep all of our backs up so they can score touchdowns,” Cajuste explained.
Some have mentioned that Grier, considered more of a pocket passer than last year’s starting quarterback Skyler Howard, is much easier to block for than Howard because he’s not on the move as much as Skyler was.
Yet, Cajuste said he believes scrambling quarterbacks can sometimes be easier to block for than pocket passers.
“I mean, they use their feet,” he said. “But regardless of whether you have a scrambler or a pocket passer, you want to keep him on his feet no matter what.”
Cajuste is also adjusting to a new offensive line coach Joe Wickline, although Coach Wick is not really new to Yodny. He worked with the tackles last year so Cajuste got to know him really well.
“Blocking is blocking and (former offensive line coach Ron) Crook was great and Wick … he’s a different type of coach,” he laughed. “But he’s a great coach, too, and I like him. He’s getting me better every single day.”
“We have a long way from having it all figured out,” Wickline said Thursday. “The guys are starting to see a few things. There’s some things you put together and as soon as you think you have it all figured out you realize all the holes and you start really watching tape and the phrase ‘a long way to go’ is still there.
“We’re not ready to quit practice. We still have guys learning - whether that be scheme or technique or fundamentals - they’re still learning and trying to get better. They haven’t gone backwards; they continue to get one day better.”
Soon, this group will get an opportunity to clear a path for all of those explosive playmakers coach Dana Holgorsen has assembled on offense.
Cajuste said the Mountaineers have plenty of weapons at their disposal this year.
“We just have to believe in ourselves,” he said. “I feel like if we can just keep correcting our mistakes and keep watching film and keep doing what we’ve got to do, the sky is the limit,” he said. “But we’ve got to keep doing the little things right.”
In order to do that, it’s a matter of getting in front of that big screen and watching more film, something to which Cajuste is getting quite accustomed.