MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Versatility is the name of the game in this day and age of college football. The more versatile a player, or a position group, can be, the more a coaching staff can use them to the team’s advantage.
Adding to his group’s versatility has been one of the top priorities for West Virginia offensive line coach Matt Moore this spring.
“[Doug] Nester’s playing a lot of center; he’s playing a lot of right tackle. I’ve had [Brandon] Yates playing center, Yates playing right guard. [Ja’Quay] Hubbard playing some right guard and playing some right tackle,” said Moore. “The left side has been pretty solid with Wyatt [Milum] and Tomas [Rimac]. So really just trying to create guys that can play different spots.”
Moving linemen around during practice has partially been done out of necessity. All-American center Zach Frazier is limited this spring after undergoing a “little procedure” this offseason, according to head coach Neal Brown. Backup lineman Nick Malone enjoyed the majority of reps at right tackle during the Mountaineers’ intrasquad scrimmage over the weekend with Nester being out for the day.
Malone was one of the many linemen who received praise from his position coach Tuesday, and is another example of the inter-positional versatility within the group.
Mixing and matching players at different spots, especially on the right side of the offensive line, has also been done out of precaution and pre-planning.
“You never know, as far as the season goes. You always want to get the best five players out there, and you can’t do that if you just pigeonhole them into one place,” said Moore. “And you always want to have multiple good players that can play center.”
In this case, Moore and the coaches aren’t just planning ahead for any potential injuries the unit could suffer during the fall, but they’re also getting the next group of players ready for when No. 54 decides it’s time to move on to the NFL.
“I know I have to have a plan for center going down the road,” said Moore, “I’m not going to be blessed with [Frazier] forever. I wish I was.”
Moore commended the job Nester and Yates have done at center so far this spring.
The Mountaineer offensive line coach feels that training players at the position raises each player’s understanding of the game, given all of the responsibilities of the center position.
“Football IQ goes through the roof. Football IQ, we’ve really worked on that during the offseason,” added Moore. “Especially when you got to move to center, because know you got to know what everybody does. Now you got to know where the Mike starts, what the front side’s doing, what the back side’s doing.”
In Moore’s experience, having a good grasp on how to play center makes the other positions up front easier to play.
West Virginia’s offensive line has stayed mainly intact over the last three offseasons. The group has gelled and grown together to become the leading unit on the team.
With that said, other players are waiting in the wings for their opportunity. Should that opportunity come, Moore has made it a priority this spring to ensure almost everyone within his unit can enter the game at multiple positions up front.