Pankey Return Possible as WVU OL Struggles - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Pankey Return Possible as WVU OL Struggles

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia's offensive line was the recipient of great praise following the team's loss to Oklahoma, but ever since, things have gone downhill quickly. The wheels have fallen off of the Mountaineers' offense and it starts up front with the men who drive it.

"We played incredibly poor up front. It was probably as bad as we've ever played on the offensive line," head coach Dana Holgorsen said after the loss to Maryland. "When you can't run the ball with five people in the box and you can't pass protect when they're rushing four, you've got issues."

With 175 yards of total offense and two sacks given up to their quarterback, the offensive line did not get the push it needed on the ground or hold its blocks long enough in the passing game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress looked lost and had about as poor of a performance as a signal caller can in this offense, but he also had many of his passes hurried and rarely set his feet properly. Part of it was his own lack of experience and cool in a collapsing pocket, and part of it was the ever-collapsing pocket.

"I didn't prepare them very well," offensive line coach Ron Crook admitted this week. "We didn't execute at the level we're used to and the first thing I had to do when that happens is look at myself and figure out how I can prepare them better, how I can get myself better prepared throughout the week."

Crook is not at the point where he is about to reinvent the wheel that has fallen off, but rather to just replace it and make it turn as it once did. He and the rest of the offensive staff have faith that the plan and the personnel work, but have gotten away from the things that work.

So far, in four games, West Virginia is rotating seven linemen at the five positions. Veterans Pat Eger and Nick Kindler are on standby to play essentially whichever role is asked of them, Eger taking guard and center and Kindler at tackle.

Holgorsen believes this could also be the week that WVU welcomes back redshirt freshman Adam Pankey to the rotation as the second-year player missed all of spring practice and fall camp recovering from offseason knee surgery.

"We're still not sure. He's practicing. It depends on how he feels late in the week," Crook said of Pankey. "He practiced some last week and you can tell he's been out for a while. He's knocking some rust off, but we're hoping that he continues to improve and we're hoping that at some point, yeah, he can be in there."

At 6-foot-5, 323 pounds, Pankey is a player who can spell relief at a number of positions. He has played guard since joining the Mountaineers, but was a tackle at the high school level. Crook could see him playing both depending on where he is needed most.

"It's just more depth. He doesn't have the most experience, but he's the type of kid that loves to come out and practice," Eger said of Pankey. "He's a physical kid and he brings a lot to this offensive line depth-wise. Once he gets all that rust off and he starts understanding how to do things again and gets back in his groove, he's going to be an asset to us the rest of the season."

The Mountaineers will go into Saturday's game against No. 11 Oklahoma State with something to prove and they will not rely on the possibility that a player with zero game experience will provide their spark.

Crook and crew would like to be back to where they are the source of optimism and the recipient of praise, but they make it clear that they couldn't care less if anyone notices they did a good job. They just don't want to be noticed for doing a poor one anymore.

"As offensive linemen, every since I was a little kid, you're not in it for praise. All of the skinny guys, they're going to get their face in the newspaper. That's not what we're here for. We play down in the trenches and we love to be physical and we love to play football. We love to play this game."

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