West Virginia's Orlosky rapidly excelling at center

WEST VIRGINIA

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Tyler Orlosky is still adjusting to being the man in the middle.

Orlosky -- a 6-foot-4, 296-pound redshirt freshman -- has been tabbed by West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen as the front-runner to start at center, a position Orlosky debuted at just five months ago.

"I was told [at spring practices] that they wanted me to move over to center and it was the best chance I was going to have to get on the field," said Orlosky, a former right guard, "so that's what I was going to go with."

Locked in a position battle with fellow redshirt freshman center Tony Matteo in fall camp, Orlosky gained an edge by being "a little bit ahead physically," Holgorsen said.

With a week left before the Aug. 31 opener against William & Mary, Orlosky is treating the position like a daily competition.

"Obviously, there's still a lot of time before that first game comes around," Orlosky said. "You really can't be caught up in what other people say."

Credit for preparing Orlosky as a starter goes to two former Mountaineers.

The first is Miami Dolphins guard Jeff Braun, who started at West Virginia for the past three seasons. Orlosky, working behind Braun on the depth chart, was an eager learner.

"[Braun] taught me a lot about how to really be a part of the game and be a part of the team," Orlosky said. "He told me to always be ready, because looking from last year into this year we knew we were going to be hurting on offensive linemen without experience."

The second is Pat Conachan, Orlosky's offensive line coach at St. Edward's High School in Lakewood, Ohio. Conachan taught Orlosky how to snap a football long before it would ever get him a starting job.

And Conachan knows a thing or two about snapping the ball; he was the Mountaineers' starting center when Oliver Luck -- now West Virginia's athletic director -- was the team's quarterback in the early 1980s.

Orlosky admits that he owes a lot to St. Edward's program. "A weight room wonder," as Eagles head coach Rick Finotti describes him, Orlosky was groomed in a veritable NCAA football pipeline, as his class sent eight players to Division I schools.

"Coming from a bigger program in high school really got you prepared for that next step of college football, that bigger stage," Orlosky said.

He knows the value of an imposing offensive line, too. Of the eight St. Edward's 2012 signees, four were offensive linemen. Orlosky and Michigan guard Kyle Kalis are expected to start this season.

First, Orlosky is focused on getting comfortable under center. Though West Virginia hasn't settled on a starting quarterback, Orlosky said his job of making calls and snapping balls doesn't change from one quarterback to the next.

"They all kind of conform to us," Orlosky said with a smile. "If we have a bad snap, obviously, the center's always going to blame the quarterback on it."

It might take a "couple hundred more snaps" to get fully adjusted at center, Orlosky said, but with three more years of eligibility remaining, the West Virginia coaching staff may have found its offensive anchor for a long time to come.

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Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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