Growing Pains Another Teaching Point For WVU Veterans

West Virginia offensive tackle Colton McKivitz blocks on the edge

Growing Pains Another Teaching Point For WVU Veterans

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Senior offensive tackle Colton McKivitz had a message this week for West Virginia’s freshman center Briason Mays and it was, quite simply, been there, done that, now get over it.

See, as McKivitz was having one of his finest career performances against Iowa State last week, Mays was getting a lesson in humility against the Cyclones’ senior nose guard Ray Lima.

West Virginia offensive lineman Briason Mays (68) tries to create running room for Leddie Brown (4)
West Virginia offensive lineman Briason Mays (68) tries to create running room for Leddie Brown (4)

As the leader of the offensive line and on a direct path toward the NFL, McKivitz understands that he has a duty to guide the younger players through the landmines that come with being a young player who has been rushed into action before he is ready.

“Briason had a rough game against Iowa State. It’s just telling them to calm down. He’s feeling now if he makes a mistake he’ll get benched. Now it’s just reassuring him,” McKivitz said.

And his reassurance came in the form of taking him back to his roughest moment as a freshman, a moment that he would have loved to have forgotten but which he knows had a lasting influence on his success.

“You know, I had my Youngstown State game my freshman year,” he told Mays. “If you want to watch a bad game, go watch that. Don’t worry about the mistakes you made last week. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. That just leads to bad games.”

That was 2016 and WVU had opened with Missouri and McKivitz had been pressed into action due to injury, much as injuries pushed Mays into the starting lineup this year. McKivitz had a big game against Missouri.

The next week they were hoping he would move forward, but that was the Youngstown State game and he had a dismal performance and was benched.

Doubts about his ability and future crept into his mind.

“I’m sure Briason is thinking about those doubts … ‘are you good enough to play at this level?’ I had those same things, the BYU week and the Kansas State week where I wasn’t the starter.”

He got over it, but not without help.

“I had some good teachers,” McKivitz acknowledged. “I know Orlo (former center Tyler Orlosky, who is now a graduate assistant working with Mays), was pretty adamant about me learning quick. I learned fast through him and my offensive line coaches yelling at me.

“It’s kind of weird seeing it on this side. Mays is going through the same thing I went through in that Youngstown State game.”

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Perhaps the biggest problem is a physical one.

“The physical aspect of it with the weight room and everything makes a big difference,” McKivitz said. “That was brought up with Iowa State’s Lima and now as he faces Oklahoma’s Neville Gallamore.

“They are both older, physical guys. That’s just how college football works. If you are a young guy you are going to be going against those kind of guys who are strong and physical. You get in the weight room and build that up.”

But there is a mental side to it, too.

“The mental side of it is you, as a redshirt freshman, find the game is fast so you just keep playing. As an older guy it slows down and you see things happen. Some of the younger guys are still flying by the seat of their pants. We’re just trying to help them slow the game down and have fun playing.”

The problem WVU is facing is one of youth and certainly Mays is only a part of it.

Offensive line coach Matt Moore, like McKivitz, has been there, done that.

“When I went to Troy my center was a freshman who had been a defensive kid and he struggled,” Moore said. “He was a prep school kid who ended up being all-conference three years in a row but the first two years it was bad.”

But he grew into a fine player and Moore got over it.

“Briason is a good kid,” Moore said. “He works his butt off, studies hard, he’s in the weight room every day but he just hasn’t matured into the Big 12 center he has to be right now.”

Moore knows Mays will get over it.