MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Like any smart player fighting for a starting role, offensive lineman Ja’Quay Hubbard is making himself as versatile as possible.
Hubbard started 11 games at right tackle last season for the Mountaineers. As a player at Virginia and WVU, Hubbard made a name for himself at the tackle position.
Now with Wyatt Milum and Doug Nester locking down the two tackle spots on the starting line, Hubbard is transitioning back to the guard role that feels “more natural,” even though he hasn’t played the position consistently since his sophomore year of high school.
“I just like coming out of a three-point stance,” he said. “I graduated from Sharpsville High School. We ran the Wing-T all four years I was there, so I’m just a gap-down backer-type guy, hand in the dirt. That’s kind of why I fell in love with the game.”
Hubbard is competing with fellow returning tackle-turned-guard Brandon Yates – who can also play center – for the starting left guard spot on the WVU offensive line, but he is also taking plenty of reps at tackle to keep himself fresh in case of emergency. He switches off between the two positions on a daily basis.
One day he will practice as a tackle, the next day he is a guard, though offensive line coach Matt Moore is only grading Yates and Hubbard based on their performances at left guard.
“I’ve been doing that for the last couple months from spring to fall camp,” Hubbard said. “It’s been great for me. It’s been a great learning tool. I have to really hone-in on, like I said, the playbooks, the techniques, and I’m going against a different body type every day.”
In addition to the playbook and its practical applications, Hubbard trained with strength coach Mike Joseph over the summer to specifically account for the position change. There was a certain emphasis on his lower-body, core strength and ankle mobility.
Pair that with his multi-faceted skillset, and he should be in position to compete at four of the five positions along the offensive line.
“Having the experience at tackle, honestly, has helped me in the transition [to] guard because [after] going against athletic guys [and] longer guys on the edge, you’re going against more shorter, wider guys inside,” Hubbard said. “If you can get your feet in the ground with my long arms, I should be able to shut them down pretty easily.”
There are no new updates on the position battle, and it could extend into the season. With a scrimmage on Saturday that marks the two-week mark from the Penn State opener, there is still time to leave an impression.
“Spring was really like a test run to see how it was, and this summer I’ve been really trying to polish it up and get ready for week one,” Hubbard said.