One of the main keys for West Virginia's success in 2010 lies on the shoulders of the offensive line. The Mountaineers line gave up 25 sacks in 2009, up from 18 in 2008.
This will be offensive line coach Dave Johnson's third year at West Virginia, so this will be a big year in determining how well he can coach up the players.
West Virginia returns four starters on the offensive line, losing only right tackle Selvish Capers, who was a seventh round draft pick this year. With a veteran line, West Virginia's offense should perform better in 2010.
Starting at left tackle is junior Don Barclay. He started all 13 games in 2009 and was one of the Mountaineers most consistent linemen. With a young quarterback in sophomore Eugene Smith, he will need to improve even more, as he will be protecting Smith's blindside.
At left guard is junior Josh Jenkins. Jenkins came to West Virginia as one of the most sought after guards in the country, and is a native of Parkersburg. Up to this point in his career, he has been disappointing. He has routinely been pushed back on the line, and has not lived up to his billing. With this being his third year, it is a make or break year for him, and could be replaced in the line-up, should he not perform to his potential.
Sophomore Joe Madsen will return as the starting center, after starting all 13 games as a freshman. He was named to several Big East all-freshman teams, and should improve this season. The experience he gained last year should pay off, as he will in charge of making all the blocking assignment calls before the play.
Senior Eric Jobe will be the Mountaineers starting right guard. He will be the fourth returning starter on the Mountaineers line. He played in all but one of the Mountaineers snaps in 2009.
The big position battle among the offensive line will be at the right tackle position. With Capers gone, someone will have to step-up take the starting job. It will likely come down to senior Matt Timmerman or red-shirt freshman Cole Bowers or Nick Kindler. Whichever one wins the job, will have to play much more consistent than Capers did last year.
One incoming freshman could make some noise in fall camp. Quinton Spain was a U.S. Army All-American is already 6'5 330 pounds. He is projected to play guard, and should push Jenkins for playing time. If Jenkins has a disappointing season, do not be surprised to see Spain getting a majority of the snaps.
This spring, tight ends coach Dave McMichael has had his tight ends also working with the tackles on their blocking. West Virginia is looking to incorporate the tight end in their offense more than they have in years past.
Tight ends Tyler Urban and Will Johnson combined for just 16 catches in 2009. Red-shirt freshman Chris Snook should also see action at the tight end/h-back position. With West Virginia looking to go to a more balanced offense, the tight ends should combine for more than 16 catches and play a bigger role.
For West Virginia's offense to more successful in 2010, the offensive line has to play better than it has in past years. With a veteran line returning, there should not be any reason for the line play to not improve.