West Virginia first-year offensive line coach faces tough test
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Offensive line coach Ron Crook filled two notebooks trying to learn the offense at West Virginia before the team started spring football practice Sunday.
Two practices deep, Crook, ballcap tightened, whistle blowing and sounding every bit the part, fired directives to his line.
Crook, one of four new faces on the coaching staff, has one of the most difficult jobs this spring -- rebuilding the interior of the line. Most notably, he needs to find a center to replace four-year starter Joe Madsen.
"I think just about everywhere you go, that's the one of the most critical things. Your center sets things for the rest of your group," said Crook. "They're the ones who make all the calls. The good thing about this situation is the guys we're going to have, they understand our offense. I think from a mental standpoint we should be in pretty good shape."
Head coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday finding a center this spring is of the highest priority, noting they can't rely on the August arrival of junior-college transfer Stone Underwood, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound center.
He said redshirt freshman Tyler Orlosky (6-4, 296) has performed well so far and noted former tackle Pat Eger (6-6, 302) a senior, needs some consistency.
"We need to find one. We have Stone ... but you don't want to rely on a junior-college guy who hasn't taken a college snap before Aug. 1 on being your guy," said Holgorsen. "Tyler Orlosky looks good. He can move, he's smart, he's confident. Pat is a smart guy, but his snaps are all over the place right now.
"That's high priority when it comes to figure out who our best one is right now and then open that up [during preseason] to see who the best one is and who the second best one is."
Crook will also have to replace guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins.
He was hired to replace Bill Bedenbaugh, who joined the staff at Oklahoma shortly after signing day, and is linked heavily to the state. A native of Parkersburg, W.Va., Crook was a former assistant coach in the state three times -- coaching at West Liberty State, West Virginia Tech (1999) and Glenville State (1997-98).
He coached tight ends and offensive tackles at Stanford the past two years and coached the offensive line at Harvard for eight years before that. Holgorsen said the experience of climbing through the ranks was admirable, and that Crook also brings some fresh ideas.
"I have some respect for a guy who coached Division I-AA football for 10 years. I was in small-college football," said Holgorsen.
NOTES -- Receiver Jordan Thompson and running back Andrew Buie worked on punt returns in the 30 minutes of practice open to media. ... Players still had no pads on, so drills were limited. ... Kicker Josh Lambert, a redshirt last season, kicked some field goals, and Mike Molinari served as the holder. ... Jared Barber, who was allowed no contact Sunday, was in a blue jersey and practiced with his teammates.
First Published March 13, 2013 12:00 am