Rebuilt Line Key For WVU

MORGANTOWN — Jacobsburg (Ohio) native Colton McKivitz is used to being called names. So, when West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen began referring to the former Union Local standout by something other than his given name, the 300-pounder took it with a grain of salt.

“He used to call me that ‘basketball guy’,” said McKivitz, who will be a redshirt sophomore this season in Morgantown. “I just laughed. When I came on campus, I looked more like a basketball player than a football player.”

All that has changed, however, as the 6-foot-7 behemoth has become one of the anchors on an offensive front which finished No. 2 in the Big 12 in fewest sacks allowed and paved the way for the Mountaineers to average 485.5 yards per game en route to a 10-3 campaign.

“Last year, I had my ups and downs,” McKivitz said. “I wasn’t expecting to play as much as I did. Then, Yodney (Cajuste) went down and I found myself playing every down. It was a learning experience. I had my good days and I had my not so good days.”

McKivitz’s ‘education under fire’ began with Missouri defensive end Charles Harris, taken by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round, and continued with matchups against Kansas State’s Jordan Willis (No. 73 by Cincinnati Bengals), and Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers (No. 83 by New England Patriots).

“That’s the way it is. We played a tough schedule and that means that you are going to go up against players who are going to get drafted. I had my moments against all of them. It’s going to be that way this year. Virginia Tech, our opener, has some really good defensive players so I expect to get tested on every play.”

But McKivitz, who has been penciled in as the starting right tackle following the spring, has been working hard with his teammates up front as well as with director of strength and conditioning Mike Joseph and his staff.

“You know, we’re building that camaraderie, getting older guys to bring young guys along. We’re a little low on tackles but it’s our job to get the younger guys up and going. It’s kind of like what Marcell (Lazard) did with me and some of the other guys, it’s our role to get those guys confident and work pretty hard to get stronger, faster, and all the things you prepare for upcoming camp.”

One of those ‘older guys’ is redshirt senior Kyle Bosch.

“It’s (the summer) going okay,” Bosch said. “Mike Joseph and his staff do a really good job of implementing new techniques that he learns from around the country. They go to clinics every year, and they find new techniques that have a lot of critical backing and if they don’t have critical backing than they’re not going to do it. There’s some stuff we did my freshman year that they found new research that said ‘that may not be the best thing to do, this may be the best thing to do’ so were constantly changing our work out regime and our workout program to meet the modern day student-athlete.”

A healthy Cajuste, who missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury, as well as the experience redshirt senior Grant Lingafelter gained during the eight games he saw action in last season give the Mountaineers more stability than fans expected following the loss of All-American Tyler Orlosky and fellow seniors Adam Pankey and Tony Matteo.

“We’re pretty confident, we’ll find out during camp and we will continue to build that and then week one we’ll find out,” McKivitz said. “They’re (the younger players) maturing pretty quickly. They have a good understanding of the playbook. They’re starting to learn the major stuff pretty quickly and that’s helping them a lot. It’s all about getting stronger in the weight room and just seeing what the play looks like and how it works.”

Fans are hoping to see that confidence in action on Sunday, Sept. 3, when WVU takes on longtime rival Virginia Tech at 7:30 p.m. at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.