Wolf's Huddle: The Sky is Not Falling!
- By Dale Wolfley
- August 07, 2013 09:56 AM
WVU Varsity Club Director and former WVU offensive lineman Dale Wolfley is offering his periodic commentary on Mountaineer football.
Time and again around Morgantown, the state, and Mountaineer Nation for that matter, I have been asked how I think the offensive line will perform in 2013. Usually, before I finish my thoughts, I am cut off with doom, gloom and general negativity.
The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I hear the usual, “We have a brand new O-line Coach!” “How do we replace graduated O-Linemen Joey Madsen, Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins?” “The center has to make the calls for the O-line,” “Three new interior linemen, how will they know how to communicate? The tackles will be left on an island!”
Get my point?
Actually, these are pretty good questions and observations, and ones that will have to be addressed during the season. It is true that a successful offensive line has to have five working parts, communicatively and physically in unison, and experience is a sure advantage. Joey Madsen started his redshirt freshman year, Josh Jenkins played five games as a true freshman before he was injured, and Jeff Braun was a four-year letterman.
This is not the first time graduating linemen have been replaced. How did West Virginia replace former greats Bruce Bosley, Brian Jozwiak, Mike Compton, Richie Braham and Danny Mozes, to name just a few? The answer is fairly simple: good recruiting, coaching and most importantly, a combination of athleticism + personal accountability + a tremendous desire to be dominant at your position individually, as well as an offensive line unit.
Attitude baby, that’s what I am talking about. I’m talking hard core Attitude, like I’m going to hit you so hard that you’re going to ask your mother for a hug, so the bad man in the closet will go away. Attitude, like you better bring your lunchbox, because me and my boys and here all day. There are very few things on a football field more powerful than five, big, strong, nasty (and probably hungry) offensive linemen, who have the same bad disposition and goals. You get these boys on the same page, and your cooking chicken wings with some serious grease.
Fortunately for Mountaineer Nation, WVU first-year offensive line coach Ron Crook knows how an offensive line is supposed to work. He knows that for an offensive line to be successful he better build a well-oiled and greased machine with interchangeable parts. That’s right, our own good Ole Boy Ron Crook from Parkersburg, W.Va., comes from the “Old School” philosophy.
How do I know this?
I have listened and I have observed! Everything I have seen thus far points to a man who adheres to this way. I have been around NFL and Division I players and coaches for the past 36 years. I didn’t have to wait too long through spring ball to figure out why I like this hire by head coach Dana Holgorsen. In my four years as head coach at Phoenix College, I hired two offensive line coaches. One was Tom Bresnahan a 16-year former NFL (retired) offensive line coach and the other was Kani Kauhi, who played 11 years in the NFL and was a former Canadian Football and Arena League coach. They, my friends, are also old school, and Ron Crook was certainly cast from the same mold.
One may ask, what exactly is “old school” and why is it so important? To me it is a way of life, as it influences every phase in your life. Specifically to football and the O-line it is about work ethic, accountability, discipline, respect, attention to detail and a heck of a lot of heart. It’s about attitude with a where there’s a will, there’s a way. A good old school coach will demand perfection so his players have a chance to achieve excellence. Good coaches know how to pull the right strings to get the most out of a player, but that doesn’t happen if the player doesn’t respect or trust his coach.
A word I hear often out of Ron Crook is balance. In the game of football, balance should be applied to just about everything, starting with balance in your stance. I have to smile when I hear him speak of balance, as it was one of former WVU offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Mike Jacob’s favorite words. Coach Jake, as we used to call him, meant the world to many of his players. He taught us how to mentally approach and physically play the game as a man instead of a boy. Jake would often say to me, “Wolf, you can have too much intensity, if all you do is try to knock somebody’s head off and forgo your technique … Balance young man.”
Another good indicator about Ron Crook’s approach to the game is the catchwords he uses. “Bend your knees; strain through the defender; leverage, strike low off the ball and attack.” I am sure his linemen are very familiar by now with his terminology. That’s how you coach linemen if you want them to be able to physically win the battle of the line.
A quick look at the depth chart shows that West Virginia could have seven or eight linemen ready to play by opening day. This is important considering that competition can be the most influential component to improving yourself as a football player. Like the picture Dana Holgorsen has put in the newly refinished weight room, it tells the team, “Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another.” In other words, competition is an excellent motivator.
This is what I know as I listen to Crook speak: the inside zone read will be a physical type of block and the offensive line will be built on fundamentals. I know it takes time to build an effective offensive line, and they will be better at the end of the year; I know that he will demand his player’s utmost and they will give it to him because he has already built their trust; I know that his players will pay attention to technique and they will communicate and work together as one. I know that they will play with attitude. I know that he understands what it means to be a Mountaineer, and that is all I can ask.
It has been a wet summer here in Morgantown, and the skies have certainly been dark, but for this 2013 WVU O-line, they are ready for a little silver lining and maybe just a little respect. The sky is not falling so fire up the grease because Mountie Nation has some wings to cook!
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