West Virginia Football: What You Need to Know About Mountaineers' Offensive Line

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIAugust 6, 2012

West Virginia Football: What You Need to Know About Mountaineers' Offensive Line

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    West Virginia is entering its first year in the Big 12, and with that comes a few changes the Mountaineers are going to have to get used to.

    One thing that can't change, however, is the stability of the Mountaineers' offensive line.

    West Virginia will be led on the line by seniors Josh Jenkins and Joe Madsen, junior Pat Eger and sophomore Quinton Spain.

    With a lot of experience and depth, the offensive line could help put the Mountaineers in the conference championship conversation.

    If their 70-33 domination over Clemson in the Orange Bowl did whet your appetite, then just wait.

    Here's everything you need to know about West Virginia's offensive line.

Tale of the Tape

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    When most people first look at an offensive line, they want to know how much beef is there. So, here's a look at the size of the projected starters for West Virginia as reported by the West Virginia Rivals site:

    • OT: Quinton Spain—6'5", 335 lbs
    • OT: Pat Egger—6'6", 301 lbs
    • OG: Josh Jenkins—6'4", 291 lbs
    • OG: Jeff Braun—6'5", 321 lbs
    • C: Joe Madsen—6'4", 310 lbs

    So, that's an average of 311.6 lbs, which is about average for a college offensive line.

    Compare that to an average of 300 lbs for Oklahoma, 298 lbs for Texas and 304 lbs for Oklahoma State. Texas Tech averages more than 313 lbs per lineman, which ranks highest in the Big 12.

Joe Madsen Is the Key

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    Standing at 6'4" and 310 lbs, Joe Madsen is the key at center on the offensive line.

    He averaged 4.2 knockdowns per game to lead the team and was named to the All-Big East second team.

    Madsen has started in all 38 games in which he has played, and will start in every game (as long as he isn't injured) this season.

    Eger said of Madsen's importance, "He calls the front, calls the Mike linebacker. We all have to be on the same page because if some of us think we are going this way and some think we are going that way it is going to be a mess and somebody is going to be in Geno (Smith) or the running backs faces real quick."

    According to Tom Melton's NFL Draft Blog, Madsen has some areas he still needs to improve in, but is still a great run blocker for the Mountaineers.

    He has the potential to get drafted because of his size, experience and football IQ thanks to his vast playing experience, but he leaves something to be desired with his technique.

    So, while he may not be the best on the offensive line, his experience and leadership on and off the field will play a huge role in the line's success throughout the year.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

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    Moving into the Big 12 is going to give the Mountaineers even more of a chance to be prolific with their offense.

    In a league where teams are very pass-happy, offenses will get many chances to score, thus putting even more of an emphasis on pass blocking.

    Defenses are going to be coming at West Virginia at an even higher rate now that they're in the Big 12, which means they can't have their same struggles to protect quarterback Geno Smith that they've had in the past.

    Since the Orange Bowl, the line has worked with its coach Bill Bedenbaugh on various areas that should help with the improvement of the line.

Josh Jenkins Returning with a Vengeance

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    Last year, Josh Jenkins went down with a knee injury during the Blue-Gold Game.

    This year, he's returning with a vengeance to prove that he can live up to the hype he had coming out of high school.

    Although Jenkins didn't play a down last season, he went through the entire spring and sat through all of the offensive line meetings. So, he knows the offense and knows what he has to do.

    In fact, Dana Holgersen considers him a returning starter because of that.

    Jenkins will no doubt bring stability back to the line, and will be able to bring that veteran leadership along with Madsen and a nastiness that seemed to be missing at various points last year.

    As the Mountaineers continue to go through practice, and as they get ready for their first game against Marshall, I predict Jenkins will be ready and raring to go.

Depth Is Good, Except at Guard

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    The Mountaineers have good depth at both tackle positions and at center.

    However, the guard positions have some inexperience in the backup positions.

    Freshman Brandon Jackson and redshirt freshman Russell Haughton-James are the main backups for Braun and Jenkins. Should one of those two go down with injury, the line may find themselves struggling a little bit.

    Then again, the only way inexperienced players get that experience is by actually playing, so the early games against Marshall and James Madison could go a long way in solidifying the depth at those two positions.