West Virginia has had plenty of roster turnover, even in the last several months. It has happened everywhere, it seems, except for the offensive line.
Neal Brown has five returning starters on the offensive line. In fact, the only change fans will likely see is a switch of the tackles: this year, Wyatt Milum will be on the left with Brandon Yates on the right.
That move, Brown said, was made to utilize Milum’s length. The head coach is very optimistic about the rising sophomore tackle’s future.
“He’s going to be special,” Brown said. “It’s not if, it’s when, and he got a lot of really good experience last year.”
All-American Zach Frazier is returning to anchor the line at center and he is set for another strong season. He was named a Walter Camp Preseason All-American in June, a nod that headlined a host of awards the Fairmont native has earned this preseason.
Guards James Gmiter and Doug Nester will flank Frazier again, a pair that has provided the most experience for the unit over the last year and a half.
The offensive line has two glaring stats on its record from 2021: 38 sacks allowed and 123.2 rush yards per game — both of which were bottom in the Big 12. At the start of fall camp, Brown was quick to defend his men up front, noting a range of factors that contribute to both those stats, including quarterbacks holding the ball too long and blown pass protection from other positions.
“I don’t necessarily think those stats are necessarily fair to that group of five that’s coming back,” Brown said. “With that being said, though, we have to be able to protect the passer better on third down, especially at the edge position to tackle.”
In addition, Brown said the unit needs to help bolster WVU’s rushing offense. The Mountaineers have had the worst run game in the Big 12 in two out of Brown’s three seasons, and he hopes that will turn around this year.
“They know that, I think they’ve attacked it since January,” Brown said. “I think that they are the strength of our team offensively.”