WVU’s Projected Football Depth Chart – Offensive Line

Chase Behrndt

West Virginia’s biggest questions in terms of its offensive line depth chart primarily focus on the two tackle spots.

The graduations of Colton McKivitz, who was the Big 12’s co-offensive lineman of the year in 2019, and Kelby Wickline has taken both starting tackles from WVU’s lineup, and now a new pair must be found.

The interior of the o-line returns most of its components, so development at the tackle slots is the biggest key.

However it’s done, this group must get better if the Mountaineer offense is going to improve as a whole. While West Virginia’s offensive front was good in terms of pass protection last year, giving up just 21 sacks, which was the third fewest in the Big 12, it managed only 73.3 rushing yards per game, which was not only easily last in the league but also 128th out of 130 FBS programs nationally.

Getting better, especially with the departure of McKivitz to the NFL, won’t be easy. Here is how we anticipate this unit looking this coming season.

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Anticipated starters – LT Junior Uzebu (Soph.), LG Michael Brown (Sr.), C Chase Behrndt (Sr.), RG James Gmiter (Soph.), RT John Hughes (Jr.)

Start with the good news, which is the experience West Virginia returns in the interior of its offensive line.

Michael Brown did not play football in high school because of a health concern, but he later received a doctor’s clearance to participate in the junior college ranks. He was incredibly raw when he arrived at WVU in 2018, but the 6-foot-3, 345-pound native of Compton, California, has progressed over the years. Brown became a starter last year, and now a senior, he’s again expected to hold down the left guard spot.

James Gmiter (6-3, 301 lbs.) spent his first fall at West Virginia practicing at defensive tackle, but he moved over to offensive guard in the spring of 2019, where the Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, native quickly found a home. He worked as a substitute in WVU’s first two games last season but then moved into the starting lineup and was there the rest of the way with six starts on the left side followed by four on the right. Now a redshirt sophomore, it’s hoped he’ll continue to provide the Mountaineers with a steadying force at right guard.

Chase Behrndt battled a shoulder injury much of his junior season, but the 6-foot-4, 315-pounder from Wildwood, Missouri, toughed it out, starting 10 of WVU’s 12 games in 2019. Some of those starts came at guard, but by the end of the season, Behrndt had settled in at center and that’s where he’s expected to continue to perform this coming year.

The lineup that was in place for West Virginia in the final three games of 2019, with Brown and Gmiter at guard and Behrndt at center, is likely the interior trio that will begin this coming season.

While WVU appears set with its interior three starters, its tackle situation is still a guess after the graduation losses of McKivitz and Wickline. John Hughes (6-5, 298 lbs., Jr.) and Junior Uzebu (6-6, 298 lbs., Soph.) will probably get the first chances at the two starting tackle spots, just because they’ve got slightly more experience than the other candidates.

Hughes came to West Virginia in the spring of 2019 after spending one year at Navarro (TX) College. Though considered more of a natural tackle, he was used at guard by the Mountaineers last season because of depth issues at that position. He even started against N.C. State at right guard and played in 11 games in all. Now the Carrollton, Texas, native is expected to move out to right tackle where he’s probably the first in line for a starting job.

Uzebu spent as his redshirt freshman year backing up McKivitz at left tackle, but being behind a second-team Walter Camp All-American doesn’t leave a lot of playing opportunities. A native of Atlanta, Uzebu saw action in just two contests in 2019, but the expectation is he’ll get considerably more snaps this coming season … likely even as a starter.

WVU offensive lineman Michael Brown in pass protection.

Likely top backups – LT Brandon Yates (RFr.), LG Blaine Scott (Soph.), C Briason Mays (Soph.), RG Donavan Beaver (RFr.), RT Parker Moorer (RFr.)

Hughes and Uzebu may have a slight lead at the starting tackle slots, but a pair of redshirt freshmen are right on their heals. Parker Moorer, a 6-foot-4, 303-pound native of Charlotte, and Brandon Yates, a 6-foot-4, 306-pounder who spent his high school years in Las Vegas, each will contend for starting jobs, and at the very least figure to be heavily used reserves. West Virginia didn’t have the luxury of depth at tackle last year to be able to rotate, but now with Moore and Yates to go along with Hughes and Uzuebu, the depth is better, though there is minimal game experience.

In terms of the interior line, Briason Mays doesn’t figure to concede a starting job, even though Brown, Behrndt and Gmiter were working there with the first team at the end of the ’19 season. The 6-foot-3, 308-pound Mays, who is a sophomore from Bolivar, Tennessee, can play either center or guard. He started seven games in the middle of the 2019 campaign at center but was supplanted in the last three by Behrndt. Though he’s not played guard in a game so far, Mays could step over a spot and play either guard if need be.

Blaine Scott (6-3, 318 lbs., Soph.) and Donavan Beaver (6-6, 308 lbs., RFr.) also will be in contention for the backup guard spots. Scott saw action in three games last year, while Beaver sat out and was redshirted as a true freshman.

Other key returnees – Tyler Connolly (RFr.), Zach Davis (Sr.), Noah Drummond (Soph.), Nick Malone (RFr.)

Now a fifth-year senior, Zach Davis (6-2, 308 lbs.) is an offensive guard WVU’s coaches have spoken highly of in the past, but the walk-on has never been able to break into the lineup for regular action. This will be his last opportunity for such a chance at West Virginia.

In addition, a trio of young walk-ons will try to add depth to West Virginia’s offensive line this year.

Noah Drummond (6-0, 285 lbs., Soph.) is a Bridgeport (W.Va.) High grad who is primarily a center, while Tyler Connolly (6-6, 344 lbs., RFr.) and Nick Malone (6-6, 282 lbs., RFr.) could play either guard or center.

Newcomers who could see game action this season – Zach Frazier (Fr.), Chris Mayo (Fr.), Tairiq Stewart (Jr.), Jordan White (Sr.)

Usually offensive line newcomers, either true freshmen and even more junior college transfers, come into WVU and immediately head to redshirt status.

In the last 40 years, only a handful of young offensive linemen have played right away, but because of both necessity as well as individual skill, this season could be an exception to that nearly automatic redshirt rule.

Tairiq Stewart, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound product of ASA (N.Y.) College, will almost certainly get a long look to see if he can help at tackle this season, though he does have a redshirt year available if the Mountaineer coaches decided to utilize that.

West Virginia has three other scholarship linemen entering as members of the class of 2020, and all three will be true freshmen. That trio – Zach Frazier (6-3, 296 lbs.), Chris Mayo (6-6, 310 lbs.) and Jordan White (6-3, 300 lbs.) – face an uphill battle if they wish to play this coming season, but those odds may not be as great as others faced in past seasons.

Mayo, who will likely play tackle, probably has a tougher road to immediate playing time just because of the depth WVU has at that position, albeit mostly of the inexperienced variety.

White, who figures to be a guard, is viewed as physically ready and very well could push those ahead of him.

Then there is Frazier, who has a combination of excellent physical and mental skills. The Fairmont, West Virginia, native is going to be a center at WVU, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him press for playing time this year. His biggest holdback is probably the fact that outside of practice he’s never played that center before, having been an offensive guard and defensive tackle in high school. If he can master the basics quickly, though, he could very well fight his way into the mix for playing time at center as a true freshmen. You’d have to go back decades and decades to find a true freshman at West Virginia who saw game action at center, but Frazier could break that barrier.

Previously In The Series

Defensive Line     |     Linebackers     |     Safeties

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Home Page forums WVU’s Projected Football Depth Chart – Offensive Line

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    West Virginia’s biggest questions in terms of its offensive line depth chart primarily focus on the two tackle spots. The graduations of Colton McKivi
    [See the full post at: WVU’s Projected Football Depth Chart – Offensive Line]


    If the weights listed are accurate , mostly around the 300 lb average, is there any concern? Depends on the strength and agility to compensate! Is this weight average mandated by the offensive schemes to be utilized?


    Most college and pro offensive linemen are at least 300 pounds in today’s game. It’s almost the oddball who isn’t that large. That’s why finding quality offensive linemen is so difficult, because there just aren’t many humans capable of being that large but also maintaining the athletic ability needed to play the position. Defensive linemen are nearly as big and strong, so if offensive linemen aren’t big enough, they’ll get overpowered by the opponent across from him.


    Sorry for th confusion. The point was that maybe the weights were too light, not too heavy! Most high school lines are over 300 today . Was just wondering if Brown’s offense requires a lighter, stronger and more agile people? Does it fit more in the Big12 type defenses? Most Big10 offensive lines are in the 350 or more averages! Different type offenses?


    RR’s lines were very light compared to the average.  It just depends on the style of game plans you have.  It’s tough for 350 lb linemen to pull and block on the back side play after play.  It’s not like the DL where they play a few downs and get pulled for a different scheme.  These OL are playing every down every set every game.  Some never come off the field.  It’s not only weight, it’s strength, leverage, lateral foot and arm speed and stamina.


    Tony, you brought up some good questions. First, I’m not sure anyone in college football is averaging 350 across its offensive line. That seems a bit high. I did some research to try to answer your question. The biggest line I found was Georgia, which went 320, 335, 330, 318 and 340 from left tackle to right tackle. Oregon, which had what many regarded as the best offensive line in the country, if not for Georgia, was 325, 316, 295, 310 and 309. Wisconsin, which traditionally produces some of the nation’s top linemen, went 312, 307, 321, 328 and 310. WVU is a bit smaller than that, at most spots, as the projected starters are 298, 345, 301, 301 and 298. WVU’s tackles are definitely 15 to 20 pounds lighter than the others tackles in that group. Mike Brown, at 345, brings WVU’s average up. Not sure what to make of it. Could it be a factor in their inability to get a push last year? Maybe, but other factors involved as well.


    Greg’s definitely the expert on OL play. One other thing that springs to mind is the way strength and conditioning has evolved. When S&C started coming on as a big thing, WVU, under Allan Johnson, wen for bulk and strength, as most programs did. Later on, more went into flexibility, and not as much sheer weight, although that’s obviously still a significant part of it.

    I remember talking to Mike Barwis for an interview and when he mentioned “photoprioreceptors” thinking that we’re really in a new era here.

    Mike Joseph is really big on flexibility and injury prevention, making sure that every player works on being as loose, stretchy and explosive as possible, so as to take the strain of contact and repetitive injury. He does look to add size, of course, but in doing it in stages while also maintaining the flexibility aspect.

    Does a difference of 10-15 pounds make a difference? Not sure. I tend to think that once you get to a certain point (280s? 290s?) that any more weight might have diminishing returns, unless you are simply a huge human being like Mike Brown. Lots of different body types to consider, too.

    And then there’s the talent and skill aspect, as Butler points out. Some guys are just better, no matter what. Just like two RBs that are the same size and speed, but one guy outperforms the other.


    Offensive linemen must be the most physically dominant player on the field. He should move the line of scrimmage by 5 yards consistently. He should play with excellent pad level by demonstrating natural knee bend, as well as have a devastating hand punch against pass rush and be able to lock on defenders and control them. He must be athletic enough to stay ahead of the ball carrier in open field and demonstrate the body control to block in space.


    Size Matters: College Football’s Biggest Offensive Linemen of 2018

    The average size of a starting FBS offensive lineman in the FBS for 2018 is 6’4.3″ tall while weighing in at 305.4 pounds.

    Conferences according to SIZE per starter:
    1. SEC (6’4.6″ 313.8 lbs.)
    2. Big Ten (6’4.7″ 309.9)
    3. ACC (6’4.7″ 309.4)
    4. Big 12. (6’4.6″ 309.2)
    5. PAC 12. (6’4.6″ 308.8)
    6. Independent (6’4.2″ 303.6)
    7. (tie) MAC (6’4.3″ 302), CUSA (6’3.7″ 302)
    9. AAC (6’4.3″ 301.3)
    10. Mountain West (6’4.9″ 300.3)
    11. Sun Belt (6’3.5″ 296.4)

    Any correlation between size and success? Based on how national football analyst Phil Steele feels how the season will shake out, we’ll rank his projections with o-line size averages (Note that the average starter is 6’4.3″ and 305.4 pounds yet only thre teams are below average – Michigan State, USC and South Carolina): There’s no definitive wins-to-lineman size ratio but it seems liekly to help if you can play with the big boys by having plenty of them up front.

    Finally, looks take a peek at my All-HUMONGOUS Team. There blockers are the BIGGEST of the BIGS:

    Caleb Jones, Indiana freshman OT (6’8″ 360)
    Daniel Faatele, Minnesota freshman OT (6’9″ 400)
    Mekhi Brown, Louisville sophomore LT (6’7″ 360)
    Nick Lewis, Kentucky freshman OT (6’9″ 350)
    Julio Castillo, freshman UCF OG (6’6″ 367)
    Lowell Furlow, UAB sophomore OT (6’8″ 350)
    Samuel Jackson UCF sophomore RG (6’6″ 356)
    Christian Haangana, Washington State sophomore OT (6’4″ 362)


    I got a quick tutorial on OL from a coworker that played D1 OL.  He said. The best advise he got was from an NFL Pro Bowl OL that never played a down in college.  The pro bowler said if you really understand leverage, how, when and where to put your hands on the DL or LB to move them out of position you have a huge advantage.  Leverage is the key more than anything else for OL.

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Home Page forums WVU’s Projected Football Depth Chart – Offensive Line

Home Page forums WVU’s Projected Football Depth Chart – Offensive Line