Big East

Senior Center Orlosky Leads a Veteran O-line

May 18, 2016

Count Tyler Orlosky among those who likes the idea of West Virginia having two offensive line coaches now.

This past January, Dana Holgorsen had a chance to add veteran offensive aide Joe Wickline to his coaching staff to complement current offensive line coach Ron Crook. Wickline’s No. 1 job is coordinating West Virginia’s offense, but among his other roles is overseeing the tight ends, fullbacks and the offensive tackles that often work alongside those tight ends and fullbacks.

There were times this spring when Crook took the centers and guards and worked on specific things, and Wickline took the tackles, tight ends and fullbacks and they worked other things.

Orlosky believes the move makes a lot of sense.

“I’m used (to having two),” he said recently. “I came from a high school program where we had two. I think you get to a point where you have 20 bodies out there and it’s hard for one coach to keep track of everybody. Last year (Crook) was able to do it because he had an offensive line GA (graduate assistant coach) and now we don’t have one.

“And, I think Coach Holgorsen didn’t want to pass up on a guy that has 30 years of coaching experience so I think that was the biggest thing – that and I think he brings a lot of knowledge.”

The techniques required to play center and guard are completely different than the techniques the tackles use to block on the outside. Having those two groups separated sometimes during individual periods has really been helpful to both groups.

Holgorsen mentioned repeatedly his satisfaction with the improved pass protection from his guys up front this spring – an aspect of West Virginia’s offensive line play that really struggled at times last year.

Exhibit A was Eric Striker’s strip sack of Skyler Howard that turned into a tide-turning touchdown for Oklahoma in a game the Sooners won 44-24.

There were other instances last year when Howard was either uncomfortable in the pocket, was throwing with a defender in his face or moving around in order to buy more time to find an open receiver. Orlosky said he saw a big difference in the team’s pass protection this spring, and some of that can be attributed to the extra attention devoted to that aspect of their play this spring.

“You can’t play center like you play tackle,” he noted. “I think Coach Crook can focus more on the centers and guards and Coach Wick can do his stuff with the tackles. I think it helps everyone because we’re not mixing technique up.”

The technique between the inside and outside guys may be a little different, but the overall scheme has remained the same, according to Orlosky.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “I think it is fine. It’s more about technique, focus and stuff like that.”

Speaking of focus, a considerable amount of attention is going to be placed on this year’s offensive line – one of the more experienced returning units in the Big 12 this fall.

There’s 29-game starter Orlosky at center, who yesterday was named to the Rimington Award Watch List, 25-game starter Adam Pankey at left guard, 16-game starter Kyle Bosch at right guard, a talented left tackle in sophomore Yodny Cajuste, who some knowledgeable onlookers believe could be a star in the making, and possibly sophomore Marcell Lazard manning the other tackle spot.
Holgorsen also mentioned redshirt freshman Colton McKivitz and redshirt senior Tony Matteo as players who continued to make strides in the spring. Collectively, this group could potentially be the strongest offensive line Holgorsen has fielded in his six years at WVU.

“I think we’re definitely ahead with all of the experience we have,” Orlosky admitted. “When I was a freshman in the middle it was Josh Jenkins, Joey Madsen and Jeff Braun and between the three of them they probably had 90 starts. The years before I was with (Quinton) Spain and Mark (Glowinsky) – those two had a lot of experience and this year we have a lot of experience.

“I think (offensive line) is going to be the focal point of the entire team and if we’re struggling that’s going to affect a lot of people, so we have to pull our weight and get everyone on the right track.”

Orlosky is a player who has been known to freely speak his mind in the past. Last year during spring practice, he questioned some of the line checks being made by Howard and disagreed with some of Skyler’s decisions to throw the football down the field instead of running the ball.

But this year, Orlosky is now at the point in his career where he realizes the chain of command in football starts with the coach calling the plays, and then filters down to the quarterback who is responsible for getting the offense into the right one.

Everyone has got to be on board with this process in order for it to work effectively.

“I’ve matured to the point where I realize I just can’t argue about it,” he said. “I think it’s helped me become not only a better player, but a better leader, too.

“There is a fine line. I’m a player. I’m not a coach. They get paid. I don’t,” he added. “It comes to a point where the coaches make the decisions and we have to go with it.”

Having now played for two full seasons in the Big 12 – and playing well, too by the way, the Cleveland, Ohio, resident earning All-Big 12 first team honors and being named to the all-league second team by the coaches during his junior season – Orlosky has now earned the right to speak up in practice, in meetings and during games.

He realizes that having a couple thousand snaps in Big 12 games under his belt carries a lot more weight than being a young, untested guy who is just tossing ideas out there.

“With our experience I think they will heed our advice a little more,” he said. “When it comes down to it, there has to be a good connection or clear communication between the players and the coaches, and with that comes disagreement sometimes, but as long as the players and coaches are on the same page I think you can work with it.”

As for West Virginia’s 57-percent touchdown rate in red-zone scoring opportunities last year, seventh in the Big 12 ahead of only TCU, Iowa State and Kansas, Orlosky believes it’s a matter of the Mountaineers wanting touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.

And that’s important because the Big 12 is a touchdown league, not a field goal league. You start kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns against Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and you’re going to be playing a lot of catch-up.

“I think it has to do with our mentality,” Orlosky explained. “I think in the past we would go down there and think ‘at least we’ll get a field goal out of this’ and I think that’s something that has to change.

“We have faith in the kickers we have going out there and we’ll be alright, but we have to score touchdowns,” he said. “We understand that (scoring touchdowns) is a point of emphasis in our plan working up to the season. We understand that we need to get better at it and I think we will.”

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