Position Switch Challenge Key For McKivitz’s Decision To Return To WVU

Position Switch Challenge Key For McKivitz’s Decision To Return To WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Like so many college football players who have finished their junior year, West Virginia’s Colton McKivitz found himself sitting at the edge of the cliff of uncertainty.

He had another year of eligibility ahead of him at WVU but he also thought that, perhaps, he had progressed to the point where he could make it as an offensive lineman in the NFL.

The fact that WVU had lost its last three games, had gone to a minor bowl and was in the midst of a coaching change only could work toward pushing him out the door.

West Virginia
West Virginia offensive lineman Colton McKivitz (53) leads Chase Behrndt (76) Kelby Wickline (back) and Josh Sills (r) to the practice field

The lure of big dollars and the NFL glitter is strong, especially if you are getting advice from those who want to feed off your success, but McKivitz kept a level head through the process.

“I sat down with Mike Joseph (WVU’s strength and conditioning coach) and my high school line coach,” McKivitz explained. “He was a big reason I wanted to play college football and came here. I just sat down with my role models. They have been there for me, and they have my best interest in mind.”

The pluses and minuses were discussed, and there were a couple of key factors that stood out above all others that made him decide to return for his senior season.

First was as good a reason as any young student-athlete can have.

“I need to graduate. I have two more classes to finish. I felt it was more important to finish those two classes than take a chance,” he said.

But there was something else, too.

It had been discussed all the previous season that this year McKivitz would move from right tackle to left tackle to replace All-Big 12 star Yodny Cajuste, who was moving forward to the NFL and is a potentially high draft pick.

And that challenge intrigued McKivitz in numerous ways.

His mind would slip back to his college football debut as a redshirt freshman. WVU was facing Missouri in the season opener and early on Cajuste went down with a torn ACL that ended his season.

All of a sudden, McKivitz was thrown to the wolves, going in there against Charles Harris, who became a first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins.

The outlook was bleak for WVU, but McKivitz had a huge game, holding Harris without a sack.

“He’s a long ways from a 230-pound, long-haired basketball player out of high school, which is what he was,” coach Dana Holgorsen said after that 2016 game. “He was battling for a starting job because we thought he had some ability, and when he got in there, I didn’t know if he was going to be wide-eyed or what. He wasn’t.”

The euphoria was short lived as McKivitz started the next game against Youngstown State and had a rough go of it and was benched.

He returned, therefore, to prove he could handle the assignment, which he felt would solidify with NFL scouts.

The left tackle spot is a much different world than the right tackle. You usually go against the best pass rusher the opposition has to offer, and technique and quickness are more important to keep up with such speed rushers.

West Virginia offensive linemen Colton McKivitz (53) and Josh Sills (73) have a laugh while awaiting practice reps

“I think it’s a great challenge,” McKivitz said of the move. “I take pride going against their best guy. I saw Yodny last year, and he was obviously a force to be reckoned with over at left. He convinced me the left side, that’s where the money is.”

“You’re going to see their best guy, and that’s key for me. I want to see their best guy.”

A week after McKivitz decided to return, announcing it on social media, Neal Brown was hired as WVU’s new head coach, but that had nothing to do with his decision.

“We had our individual meetings with Coach Brown after I had decided I wanted to come back. It didn’t matter who was going to be here; I was going to come back to play. Once I met him, I knew it was a good decision,” he said.

And it was at that meeting that Brown told him they were going to depend upon him to be the left tackle.

It would seem simple to move from right to left but much changes for the player.

“Technique is the biggest part of it. I’m obviously more familiar on the right side because that’s where I spent most of my career,” McKivitz said. “The calls are different. There’s a different look on the other side of the defense. But if you get moved around, you should be able to do both. The biggest part is the repetition, seeing plays .

“So the more you run it, obviously, you will run it better.”

The coaching staff has confidence McKivitz will handle the change.

“I think he’s one of our best o-linemen, and I think you have to put him at left tackle,” offensive line coach Matt Moore said this past Saturday. “He had some trouble today with a set just because it was the first time he’s really done it live. But I think he could be a really good left tackle in this league.”

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