MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Graham Harrell has a unique tool at his disposal in year one: a fully-returning offensive line.
Luckily for him, the unit is excited to have him calling the plays. Redshirt senior guard James Gmiter said that the line feels “rejuvenated” with Harrell’s addition, and is ready to “light it up.”
That built-in cohesion made things easier for Harrell when he began to install his offense. He expected it to be a disaster, but the line’s work in the offseason was clear to see as they got some of his first schemes in with little trouble.
Here’s how the Mountaineers will line up on the line this fall:
LT: Wyatt Milum, sophomore
WVU’s top signee of the 2021 class had a strong first campaign at right tackle with the Mountaineers, playing in 12 games and starting eight. He was picked WVU’s Offensive Lineman of the Game against Iowa State, then finished with three Freshman All-America nods.
2022 will be a new challenge for Milum. While he hopes to pick up where he left off, he will have to do so from the other side of the line as his coaches moved him to the left side of the line. On a positive note, offensive line coach Matt Moore said at the beginning of the spring that Milum was taking on his new role well.
In fact, that was where the left-handed Milum was slated to play all along, but he was a right tackle at Spring Valley High. Once he got a year of D-I ball under his belt, Moore felt comfortable making the switch.
LG: James Gmiter, redshirt senior
The only starter on the O-line to out-tenure his head coach, James Gmiter is the vocal leader on the line. He is entering his second straight season as a starter but has been an important contributor in all three of his seasons on the field.
Gmiter stood out during spring practice, as Neal Brown noted that his footwork and body positioning have both improved.
C: Zach Frazier, junior
WVU’s lone All-American anchored its offensive line all through 2021, and he’s back for his junior season. Frazier, a former star at Fairmont Senior, was named WVU’s Offensive Lineman of the Game four times in his sophomore campaign after moving from guard to center in the offseason. He was also an all-conference selection by both PFF and Phil Steele in 2021 and has already gotten preseason attention for 2022.
RG: Doug Nester, redshirt junior
Another son of the Mountain State, Nester made an immediate impact on the offensive line after making the move from Virginia Tech. Just two weeks into the season, Nester was lifting the Black Diamond Trophy at Milan Puskar Stadium after helping the Mountaineers prevail over the Hokies.
Nester started all 13 games for WVU in 2021, playing through a broken hand to help Leddie Brown run for 1,000 yards. By season’s end, PFF saw it fit to name Nester to its All-Big 12 Second Team.
RT: Brandon Yates, redshirt junior
Yates enters his third straight season as a starter on the offensive line, but this year, he will be on the right side of the line instead of the left. The 6-foot-4, 302-pound big man finished the season strong, earning the Offensive Lineman of the Game nod from his coaching staff in the regular season finale against Texas.
Yates did sustain an injury in the offseason and missed the first part of spring practice. Yates did return for the Gold-Blue Game, though, and started with the first-team offensive line.
Moore said at the start of the spring that he had seven offensive linemen that he was comfortable putting on the field in a live game. That number likely grew as the reps piled up, but he did say that he hopes he has nine or 10 linemen ready to go for the Sept. 1 season opener. Some of those have already seen snaps with the Mountaineers either last season or in the spring, but reinforcements are on the way when WVU’s four 2022 signees turn up for camp.
These are some of the other returners poised to provide support in the trenches:
Tackle Ja’Quay Hubbard, redshirt sophomore
Hubbard had a quiet second in Morgantown after joining from Virginia, playing in five games at left tackle. He had a valuable spring season with Yates out of the lineup, though, taking advantage of the extra reps with the first team. Moore says he is coming along at right tackle.
Guard/tackle Nick Malone, redshirt sophomore
Morgantown’s own Nick Malone played a lot of tackle as a redshirt sophomore in 2021, appearing in all 13 games for the Mountaineers. He improved dramatically in the offseason according to his coaches, earning the Nickolich Award, which is given to the walk-on with the best attitude and work ethic.
Malone could be a big piece of the offense due to his versatility. He filled out in the offseason physically, and with his experience, Moore says he is comfortable playing him at any guard or tackle spot.
Center/guard Jordan White, redshirt sophomore
White took a lot of reps at center with the first offense in the spring. That doesn’t mean he is gunning for Frazier’s job — but building that cohesion is necessary just in case he needs to step into that spot at any time.
He played in four games in 2021 as an interior lineman and will continue to give WVU depth on the inside in 2022.
Check out some of our previous roster reviews:
- Head coach and offensive assistants
- Defensive assistants
- Running backs
- Wide receivers
- Tight ends