Simplification Helps WVU Offensive Line In Late Season Surge
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s offensive line play has improved by several steps over the last three games, at at least some of that may be attributable to some simplification in assignments.
“I think we went back to the basics of things with our points with Matt (Jones),” offesnive coordinator JAke Spavital said of West Virginia’s primary center. “Be confident, make one point and we’ll play off the rest where Will (Grier) has a pretty good understanding of his hot reads. I think that has helped us from a protection standpoint.”
Details of those changes weren’t revealed, but the hows and whys aren’t the most important point. What matters is that WVU hasn’t had the breakdowns in protection that it suffered earlier in the year, and along with that has come an improvement in run blocking.
“There are times where Matt had to think to get us in the right blocking scheme or going the right way. Now it’s simplified so that he just has to make a call and we all go,” said guard Josh Sills, who went through his own adjustment period a year ago. “I think it has slowed down for him. When you have to think, it slows you down because you have to get to the right person, get to the right spot, block the right guy.”
WVU has seen success with the modifications against Baylor, Texas and TCU, but now comes another step up the challenge ladder. Oklahoma State brings as many, or more, twists, stunts and games as anyone in the league, all designed to confuse blocking assignments and give defenders free runs at the quarterback. In some ways, it’s a battle of the base vs. the exotic, and it will show just how far the Mountaineer offensive line has come.
“We’re going up against a very good Oklahoma State team that will catch you off guard with some blitzes. They’ll do some things that are uncharacteristic that you don’t see very often, and they’ll get you,” Spavital cautioned. “That’s why they’re one of the top teams in the country in sacks right now. So, we do have a tough challenge with that moving forward, but I think with the success of protecting how they have over the past couple weeks has been simplifying it up front, and Will’s been doing a really good job with understanding his hot reads.”
Sills emphasizes the importance of not having too much to analyze and think about.
“When it’s simplified you don’t have to think you get there faster. From a mental standpoint you know that’s taken off of you and you can play faster. I would say we have more confidence, but if you quit working you get complacent, and you see what happens when you get complacent.”
There are still in-game, and in-play, adjustments that need to be made. WVU, or any team, can’t be so simplified in its blocking schemes that it doesn’t have to account for rushers coming from different levels or angles. Communication remains important.
“They’ll try to confuse you and bring blitzes and move people around,” Sills concluded. “We all believe in Coach Spav and Coach (Joe) Wickline that they will get us in the right plays and right protections for us to be successful.”