MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Matt Moore has what most offensive line coaches dream of: a full returning starting five. At the same time, there is a lot of work to do if that unit wants to shine in the fall.
There were some clear areas of needed improvement after 2021. Some weeks, WVU really excelled on the ground, like on Oct. 23 against TCU, when it logged 229 rushing yards. But two weeks later, the Mountaineer offense stalled, mustering just 17 yards against Oklahoma State. WVU also bottomed out the Big 12’s allowed sacks column, giving up 38 sacks for 290 yards.
WVU heads into 2022 with the same offensive line with which it ended 2021, and as should be expected, Moore feels it is better in year two. He says the O-line had a great offseason and is working through a really good spring, and that extra time has allowed Moore to help build the group into a cohesive unit.
The 2022 edition of the WVU O-line won’t be identical to 2021, however. Moore has made some changes, like switching the tackles — Wyatt Milum will play on the left side this year, while Brandon Yates will line up on the right.
Milum’s move was a bit of a no-brainer for WVU’s coaching staff. For one, he’s left-handed, which makes the job a little easier for him. At the same time, that was where Neal Brown wanted to put him as a true freshman, but Moore wanted to keep him at right tackle, where he played in high school, in order to shorten the learning curve.
“Playing tackle, especially in this league as a true freshman, confidence is huge, because if you can think you’re good, that’s half the battle,” Moore said. “So I kept him over there but then I knew as soon as the season ended we were going to move him over.”
Moore is also optimistic about the growth of right guard Doug Nester, who started all 13 games in 2021 and was in a cast for many of them. He got it off in the second half of the season, and his offensive line coach says his mental change is quite apparent.
The two stalwarts in the middle, left guard James Gmiter and center Zach Frazier, are showing growth as well. While Gmiter leads the unit in career starts, Moore says everything revolves around Frazier, who earned a Second Team All-American nod in 2021.
“He’s the guy that sets the tone in the room to get the rest of the room playing the way we are right now,” Moore said.
As the spring comes to a close, Moore says he has seven offensive linemen he is comfortable putting on the field. He has four signees that are yet to come on campus, and by August, he hopes to get comfortable with nine or 10 linemen.
But right now, the WVU offensive line still has its eyes on the fall. It doesn’t want a repeat of 2021, in which it “struggled mightily” against some of the nation’s top defenses, in Moore’s words.
“Every day during walk-through, we’re working on defense we’re going to see down the road,” Moore said. “To be where we want to be, we’ve got to be able to run the ball against those people, we’ve got to go for over 100, 150 [rushing yards], and that’s something we’re working toward.”