By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
In the end, the greatest offenses — yes, even one devised by Dana Holgorsen — is only as good as its offensive line.
And so it is as spring practice gets under way, the West Virginia University offensive line finds itself under the microscope, not so much because it is being rebuilt, but because there are a number of changes in it, not the least of which is the return of senior Josh Jenkins from an injury redshirt year.
With Jenkins returning at the left guard position that was his before being injured in the Rutgers game in 2010, it frees Jeff Braun to move back to the other side of center Joey Madsen at right guard, which is his third position as a Mountaineer lineman.
He will be flanked by mammoth left tackle Quinton Spain, all 335 pounds of him, who inherits Don Barclay’s spot as he tries to land himself a place in the National Football League.
At right tackle is Pat Eger, but he can expect some competition from 315-pound redshirt freshman Marquis Lucas.
Jenkins, though, is the central focal on the line as he brings experience and something the line really does need — an attitude.
“He brings a new confidence and he brings a little attitude to this line. He always gets on people,” said Braun.
Jenkins, a former All-State player at Parkersburg High, readily admits that he brings an attitude with him, something that is always a positive in the gritty world of the offensive line.
“You have to go at this with a passion,” Jenkins said after his second practice of the spring. “I hate losing, and I want to be the best. I try to see that everyone feels like that.”
That passion made this past year very difficult for Jenkins, rehabilitation being what it is and then the Mountaineers prancing through a 10-win season that included that historic 70-33 Orange Bowl victory that he could only watch.
“First off, I was happy for my teammates, but it’s tough not playing, especially knowing that I could have been out there,” Jenkins said.
All of that made his return this spring that much more of an event.
“I was like a little kid,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t go to bed until 7 a.m. I couldn’t sleep, I was thinking about it so much.”
Spain is also a key to this offensive line, in part because he got a good bit of experience last year.
He had always played left tackle previously, so last year was important for him when he moved to right tackle.
“It took a while to get used to it,” Spain admitted. “But by the end of the season I had it figured out. Now I can play both sides.”
Jenkins is going to be able to help him move into the starting lineup.
“He brings everything to the line. He is a big part of it,” Spain said.
Interestingly, the line believes that the change in the Mountaineer defense this year will benefit it.
How, you ask.
“All we’ve gone against in practice is the 3-3-stack,” Jeff Braun noted. “It’s a defense we don’t see in the games. Now we will be going against the 3-technique and that should help the guards.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.