West Virginia Football’s Biggest Strengths In 2019: No. 2 – The McKivitz/Sills Combo
(Editor’s Note – We previously took a look at West Virginia’s top 10 biggest question marks heading into the 2019 football season. In the second half of this series, we turn our attention to what we perceive to be the top 10 strengths of Neal Brown’s first Mountaineer squad.)
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3. The McKivitz/Sills Combo – What more can we say about the two stalwarts who will anchor West Virginia’s offensive line in 2019? The fact that Colton McKivitz and Josh Sills have been the features of many WVU previews this summer says a lot about their importance to the Mountaineers’ offensive success, and about their rise as leaders of the team, both on and off the field, but perhaps there are couple more nuggets to mine.
First up is the move of McKivitz to left tackle for the 2019 season. This move makes sense as it puts one of West Virginia’s best lineman in position to protect the blind side of its quarterbacks. There’s a dichotomy, however, present in the switch. Were McKivitz and Sills kept alongside each other on the right side, they could have pooled their abilities to form an even more potent force. However, splitting them up could also help each mentor less-experienced players alongside and behind them, which is definitely a need for this year. Perhaps as much as their individual play on the field, their ability to help the rest of the offensive line will be a deciding factor in the success of Neal Brown’s first WVU team.
“As a leader, one of your roles is to try to get the younger guys up there, try to get them up to you,” McKivitz said at Big 12 Media Days.
Sills, from his guard spot on the right side, could be able to help both the center inside him and the right tackle on the outside, although Kelby Wickline at the latter position has a good bit of experience.
McKivitz and Sills both bucked the standard narrative of offensive linemen needing a good bit of time to develop, another factor which binds them. The process that typically involves two to three years of strength and technique development was shortened by each via a combination of natural size, talent and work habits that allowed each to progress rapidly. After a 2016 redshirt season, Sills played in all 13 games in 2017, starting 10 with those evenly split between left and right guard. McKivitz also redshirted in his first year (2015) but like Sills moved quickly into the starting lineup in his first year on the field, playing in all 13 games and starting 10 in 2016. That shared experience, with each moving quickly into a world dominated by fourth- and fifth-year players, has helped them bond not only with each other, but also built respect among their teammates.
The duo weren’t just placeholders in those jobs, either, Both quickly began earning notice, snaring weekly team awards as well as All-Big 12 honors. The fact they they have also played different positions during their career is another big plus – they’ve seen offensive play from different angles, and have the confidence that such experience provides to keep them calm when adversity strikes.
There’s also the background factor. Both are avid outdoorsmen who share a love of everything that environment has to offer, and that initial connection has clearly cemented the bonds the two share. Put all of those together, and it’s no surprise to see them in the top group of positives for the Mountaineer football program in 2019. The only question is how far their influence can spread.
Previously In The Series