Building An Offensive Line With WVU Assistant Matt Moore
MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — Talk shop with new WVU offensive line coach Matt Moore, and you’ll get a Ph.D. level’s worth of information in just a few minutes.
Moore, a veteran of head coach Neal Brown’s staff at Troy, knows what he wants in offensive linemen. Like every coach, he has a few items that he sees as paramount in selecting recruits or slotting them into positions, but he doesn’t treat them like state secrets. There aren’t any radical ideas in his philosophy, but hearing him spin them out with his mid-level southern drawl is a bit like listening to a moonshiner detail his recipe.
“Before spring ball I have to know who’s going to be inside, who is going to be outside and who can snap,” the 22-year veteran said. “The number one thing is who can snap. Once we figure that out, and I know who the tackles are going to be, then we can figure out the guards. I want to go into spring knowing which guys are going to play each side, guard and tackle and then from that point who is going to be first team, second team.”
Some line coaches like to cross-train their players so they are ready to go at any position, ala former Mountaineer line mentor Rick Trickett. Others might limit that some, with a primary and secondary spot for those capable of manning multiple positions. Moore leans more toward the latter, but also has another goal for his linemen.
“I try to keep them on one side,” he said, wanting to avoid forcing his players to flip stances, as must occur when moving from the right side to the left or vice versa. “That’s my goal. I try to have three players ready on each side, and one of them can be a swing player (playing both guard and tackle) and then two centers. Usually I will try to carry a third center to games, that might be a redshirt guy.”
As Moore continues to build out his line, he’s on the lookout for certain characteristics from his interior and exterior players. Not surprisingly, height and reach are key elements for tackles, but an unexpected one heads his list for the centers and guards.
“The number one thing for a tackle, is there is a little bit of a height cutoff. You don’t want to be a 6-2 or below guy trying to play tackle unless you are just extremely-long armed. You have to have some long arms if you are going to be at the tackle position. You have to have some length and some twitch so you can get off the ball.
“Inside, you have to be able to bend. You have to be able to get some leverage on the big people. You have to be able to get underneath them. The arm length isn’t as big as a deal, and they have to be tough individuals.
“They have to be able to bend at the hips and ankles,” continued Moore, who started 34 games at Valdosta State from 1991-94. “From their hips to their upper body, you don’t want them to be at a 90 degree angle. You want there to be a little “sink” and drop, and their heels have to be on the ground. When you see their heels up, that’s (a lack of) ankle flexibility — they can’t keep their feet on the ground. When you are on your toes all the time, you don’t have good balance. You want to see the cleats on the ground that butt down a little bit, and at that point you have some flexibility.”
Many offensive line coaches are blessed with colorful analogies to describe aspects of play, and Moore is no different. He characterizes linemen of two different styles, and sees room for each on his lines.
“You’ve got pounders and pushers,” the Canton, Georgia native said. “You watch film and you see some guys come off and put their hands on them and start pushing them. Then you’ll see guys that come off and ‘POW’. That’s the pounders. You can have pushers on the edge if they are long and athletic, but when you are inside you have to have those guys that when they come off the ball you see a collision.”
For now, Moore is watching his charges during team drills, where he can gather initial impressions and begin to get an idea of where they might fit in his scheme.
“All we are working on are fundamentals,” he said of the February drills. “I like the inside guys having their hands down, and the outside guys (not), so it’s just seeing who can function with their hands down. A lot of kids, they are functionally so tight, they struggle with their hands on the ground. I am trying to see the bend, trying to see the twitch, see how they move. I can do that through all my drills.”