Lingafelter: Execution, Short Memory Key For Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – If there’s an offensive lineman with a keen eye, it’s Grant Lingafelter.
Already known as among the lead film reviewers for WVU’s offense, the fifth-year senior has been at West Virginia for nearly as long as the Mountaineers have been in the Big 12. He’s seen the defensive fronts of teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – along with those pesky Horned Frogs from TCU, who run a similar 4-2-5 to what Virginia Tech will offer in the opener.
The consensus? The Hokies are as good as anybody the Mountaineers will face this season as far as defensive entirety. Tech brings back seven starters, including the three linebackers (two of whom had more than 100 tackles) and what projects as an elite level secondary. But the front four should be getting more shine than shade from critics, especially considering the talents of rush end Travon Hill.
Hill, who will work the blind side of WVU quarterback Will Grier against Mountaineer tackle Yodny Cajuste, is a long, agile pass rusher at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. He won’t overwhelm with strength, but shows quickness off the snap and a penchant for proper angles. Add in tackles Tim Settle, at 6-3 and now 335 pounds after gaining seven pounds between spring and fall, and Ricky Walker (6-2, 300 pounds), and Tech has solid building blocks up front. The lone question is Vinny Mihota, a returning starter at end who sat out the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery after last season.
“They’re a good team,” said Lingafelter, who will take snaps alongside Cajuste on the left side. “Came up a little short in the ACC championship game, but they bring back a lot of those guys. Their front seven is really good and coach Wick and Spav have done a good job of getting us prepared to do our thing and play well. We will worry about ourselves and doing everything we can do.”
Among the biggest of misconceptions about the Hokie defense is that it’s all about big plays. Coordinator Bud Foster prides himself on pressure while mixing coverages on the back end. And it’s true that over the last decade, no team in major college football has more sacks than Virginia Tech’s 781. Tech, in fact, finished in the top 15 in the nation last season in four categories, and over the last 10 years ranks first in the country in interceptions, third down defense and sack yardage, second in pass defense and total takeaways and third in total defense at an average of 305 yards per game.
But there’s another ideal that makes the Hokies arguably more lethal, like death by 1,000 paper cuts.
“They don’t make mistakes,” Lingafelter said. “There are some common mistakes teams make. They don’t make them. They are very disciplined. Bud Foster has been there a long time and he knows what he’s doing. It’s always about execution. You don’t have to have the best talent. We played a lot of teams who don’t have the best talent, but they are really well coached and they do what they are supposed to do. They are always the hardest to block and hardest to be successful against. This team has both, so it will be a good match-up for us. It’s an opportunity for us to go out as an offense and show what we can do against a really good defense.”
What, pray tell, can the Mountaineers do with Lingafelter, a first-time starter, a new center in Matt Jones who has played in one career game in college, and sans wideout Marcus Simms? Heralded quarterback Will Grier hasn’t played in nearly two years, receiver David Sills comes off a season at the junior college level spent under center, and fellow wideout Ka’Raun White comes off a broken leg which caused him to miss the final two games of the season – including the bowl versus Miami.
First, WVU wants to run the football, pound its five-some of tailbacks and make Tech contain that explosive aspect. Beyond that, it’ll be a blur of between series adjustments by Foster and Mountaineer offensive coordinator Jake Spavital. Mistakes are to be expected during the proverbial chess match, and have been both predicted and warned against by Lingafelter and guard Kyle Bosch. It’s not so much the miscue – Virginia Tech is going to force those at times – it’s the recovery and ability to push past.
“That’s part of football; No one can be perfect when you play big-time college football,” Lingafelter said. “Our goal is to have zero sacks, zero negative plays. That’s not realistic. You have to be able to forget about it, have a short memory. That’s what offensive line is about, a short memory. Forget about what happened the play before and get after it the next play. We have some young guys who are playing, but also some guys who have played in big games as well. They know as well as we do that you have to forget about the negative plays and get to the next play, get back to the huddle and worry about that. Spav will call what Spav calls and we will run the plays.”
Simple enough. Oh, and Lingafelter has one more piece of advice for those lengthy hotel stays, and the monotonous build-ups to a night kick, as this one begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night.
“Night games cam be tedious. It’s dragging, you’re waiting all day for the game to start. It can get hard,” he said. “You have to stay focused, go over game plan stuff. We are in meetings. We are watching film still. It’s not like we are sitting there doing nothing. Time goes slow when you’re waiting in the hotel, so you have to find a way to stay focused and not forget about what you gotta do that night.”