Tackles Continue To Anchor WVU Line
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — They linger in the shadow of the greatness they create, these creatures — and when you consider their size that may not be a bad description of them — who play offensive line for West Virginia.
It comes with the territory.
The guys who score the touchdowns get the headlines, the guys who pave the way simply bask in the glory of knowing they were responsible for it.
How, though, do you judge an offensive line?
Perhaps there is a statistical way, such as how many tackles for losses does it give up, which would indicate a hole in the dike, or by sacks of the quarterback allowed.
Well after this week WVU was tied for second in the nation with fewest tackles for a loss allowed, having given up only 22 negative yards rushing in three games, capped off by being tackled only once in the backfield by Kansas State.
And Will Grier had been sacked only four times in three games for negative 12 yards.
Oh, their teammates know what they are doing, teammates like Grier and David Sills.
“I am impressed with the way that group is coming along,” Grier said on Tuesday as he took time out from preparing for Saturday’s potential Big 12 shootout with Texas Tech in Lubbock. “They continue to get better. I owe those guys everything. They are the core of this offense.”
“They are kind of the unsung heroes of the team in the media. They kind of go unnoticed. They make the plays work. There’s nothing going to work without them,” Sills added.
The strength of the offensive line can be found in its two offensive tackles, 323-pound Yodny Cajuste on the left side, a player seemingly headed for All-America honors, and 6-foot-7, 310-pound Colton McKivitz on the right side.
While the men between them have had to scratch and claw their way into playing time and continue to compete, the tackles are the anchors.
The recognition comes not only from their offensive sidekicks, but from those across the ball on the defense who have to play against them every day.
“Those tackles definitely are good,” said Ezekiel Rose, the defensive end with the hair dyed blue and gold. “Yodny is very athletic.”
A former star basketball plyer in high school, his athleticism seperates him from others who play his position.
“He’s not even supposed to be an offensive tackle,” Rose said. “He should be a D-end or something. Colton is the same way. He’s very long, athletic and can move. He’s smart, too. He’ll pick something up and tell me about it and I feel that can help me in the long run.”
It helps him in the long run and to set up the long runs.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson sees enough film of the two that he knows just how good they are.
“They are probably the best two offensive tackles our defense plays against all year. Our ends see them every day and it’s good for the defensive line and linebackers to go against them, too,” Gibson said.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen has watched the development of this line take place over the past couple of seasons, helped no small amount by Cajuste’s decision to return for his final year.
“We’re getting better there and I think it starts with our tackles,” Holgorsen said. “We’re throwing the ball a good bit, and our tackles have done a great job. I think Yodny played probably one of the better games he’s had [against Kansas State] , Colton was our player of the game.”
That the players at guard and center have not yet peaked is good news for the offense, not bad.
“We’re still a work in progress with the inside three. There’s still competition there. (Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman) Josh Sills probably had his best game. He’s young, he should continue to get better. He’s progressing.
“And then we have competition at center and right guard, so we want those guys to continue to improve. I think Will has a lot to do with that because Jake (Spavital) is doing a great job of putting him into position and coaching him up and giving him freedom to be able to check things based on what he sees.”
The biggest tests, of course, still lie ahead in what is a back-heavy schedule, but that only gives those in the middle of the offensive line time to raise the level of their play.