Football has begun on the campus of West Virginia University, but it will probably be another week before we can figure out how things are going. Things like which newcomers may be impact players? Which players may become academic casualties? How the defense is taking shape? These things will come more into focus as camp continues, but since the Mountaineers did not wear pads until Saturday, there is little to know right now. Of course the real report card comes out after several games, not a hand full of practices.
I did see a couple of reports from the early days of practice that were interesting. Mountaineer fans will be happy to know that offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh is working to make the offensive line a nasty bunch. This is Bedenbaugh’s second season and he is stressing that his line become more physical.
"O-line, you find out about them when they put the pads on,'' offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. "Playing offensive line is about being physical.''
The play of the offensive line has looked “soft” to many in recent years and it looks like Bedenbaugh is out to change that. Guard Josh Jenkins says, "Coach Bedenbaugh preaches that (nastiness). He says one thing we will not be is we will not be soft. You won't step on the field if you're soft.”
A player that may benefit from the O-line mindset is sophomore running back Andrew Buie. Buie arrived in Morgantown last fall as one of the more heralded recruits in his class. His aggressive running style and true freshman body did Buie no favors. He got a start in the Maryland game last fall, but the early book on Buie was that he was taking some vicious hits. He ran a little bit erect and usually at someone and not around them.
Following the Maryland game Buie did not see a lot of action due to nagging injuries and the emergence of fellow true freshman Dustin Garrison. When Garrison was injured just before the Orange Bowl last January, Garrison moved back into the rotation behind Shawne Alston. It was Buie that made that great run early against Clemson where he was seemingly tackled, but bounced up off the Clemson player and continued his run.
With Garrison’s status still uncertain due to his extensive rehab, Buie will be in the mix for more carries this fall. To that end, running backs coach Robert Gillespie is helping Buie adjust his running style to increase his longevity.
"You have to run behind your pads and use your center of gravity,'' Buie said. "You learn that by watching film. Last year I'd run high, not really aware of what's going on around me and take big hits. When you know what's going on around you, you can start preparing your body for a bigger shot.
Also working in Buie’s favor is the nearly 20 pounds he’s gained since his freshman year. While 187 lbs. isn’t a big back, that weight will serve him better than his freshman weight of 170.
"By the time he leaves here he'll probably be 200, 205 and he'll be able to run like that,'' Gillespie said. "You can't change his mentality, but you have to teach him when to do it and how to try and make guys miss.
Of course WVU will still be able to put the 235 lb. Alston into the lineup when it is time to go big.