WVU’s McKivitz Meshing Practice, Teaching Roles Through Summer
ARLINGTON, Texas – Mountaineer senior offensive lineman Colton McKivitz, like a handful of his teammates, have dual roles this summer. As position groups assemble for workouts without the coaching staff present, their leaders are not only working to hone their own games, but also to help newcomers and those players trying to break into the rotation up their level of play. Add in the differences that have come about with a new offensive line coach and some modification to the offensive system, and there’s no doubt it’s a full plate.
“It’s hard to do both,” McKivitz said at Big 12 Media Days. “As a leader, one of your main things is to get those younger guys up there, get them to a level of play that’s good for the team. Finding time to do those extra things is found after the workouts.”
While most of the fundamentals of blocking remain the same, McKivitz and the other veterans on the line, including Josh Sills and Kelby Wickline, also have to hone a few technique points of emphasis that have changed from the previous staff. Then there’s getting the steps and timing down on the plays in the new system. Again, these may not be radical differences, but even small tweaks can take a bit of time to master after running things a bit differently in past seasons. They have to work on their own games, which requires full attention, before worrying about teammates. That’s still a vital process, however, as the choreography among the five linemen is the hardest to develop, and the most important large group dynamic.
Thus, as McKivitiz explains, it’s a bit of double duty for the veterans, and they are putting in extra time to help with the teaching process.
“That’s one of our big things, the extra workouts after the required time,” McKivitz said. “Working every day after workouts has been a big key in keeping up with that.”
That is where some of the coaching aspect comes in. McKivitz has no problem jumping in when he notices something going awry.
“Yeah, you catch that. You might see them doing a half-kick but you tell them to stop and try to fix that before they complete the rep, to let them know its wrong and try to correct it,” the Jacobsburg, Ohio, native said.
Without question, the level of success experienced in helping the youngsters and backups from a year ago improve will have a huge effect on how good the Mountaineer offense can be. With McKivitz on the left side at tackle and Sills on the right side at guard, the hope is that each can provide an anchor around which the rest of the line can solidify. Wickline, with a total of 387 offensive snaps over the past two seasons, is hopefully in a position where he can approach the 800-900 mark per year that McKivitz and Sills have turned in, as is Chase Behrndt, who had 325. Past that, though the experience cupboard is nearly bare. Thus, the crash course for players like Michael Brown, Junior Uzebu, Adam Stilley, Tyler Thurmond, Briason Mays and Zach Davis, all of whom had very limited or no action a year ago.
For example, Davis did not get on the field in his first two seasons, then got a handful of snaps against Baylor in 2018. Coming into fall camp, he’s listed as the second-teamer at left guard behind Brown, who likewise is short in the experience category. McKivitz sees potential in this group, and spoke about Davis as an example.
“Zach Davis has been getting after it in the weight room. That has been a big key for him. As a walk-on, their job is pretty much twice as hard as ours. Their mindset is working toward that and trying to work as hard as they can. I respect the heck out of him. I was on the scout team (as a true freshman), and I know how hard it was to get up on that level. It’s been pretty impressive.”
Every minute, every snap and every rep that this line has put in so far, and that it can squeeze in before the opener will be crucial in building the teamwork and synergy that is vital to successful play up front. Due to departures and transfers, this line has been a bit behind in that regard, through no fault of the players on it. They have players still working to improve and show they can be considered to be part of the rotation, but that’s just the first part of the process. Bringing it all together, under the guidance of McKivitz and his leadership cohort, is the final goal, and that’s a process that will likely continue throughout the season.