One of the biggest questions heading into spring football was the center position and replacing Rimington Award finalist Tyler Orlosky.
After showing some progress this spring, the center position lost a key player in redshirt freshman Jacob Buccigrossi, who fell and tore his ACL while pulling out on a screen pass during Sunday’s practice.
After missing all of last spring with a shoulder injury, Buccigrossi had worked himself to second team center this spring behind redshirt sophomore Matt Jones, but with his injury, it’s back to square one according to West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen.
“Feel really bad for him,” Holgorsen said. “We’ll try to figure out who the next one is. We felt like we had a good second and third competition going on right there, but now we’re back to square one.”
Though the Mountaineers are down one center, they do have some replacement options for Buccigrossi for the time being.
Holgorsen said that they’ll rep redshirt junior Tennessee transfer Ray Raulerson at the second team spot.
According to offensive line coach Joe Wickline, Raulerson has improved since he transferred to West Virginia and can compete at the center position, but as of now, Raulerson has just been rotating in and out at center with the second team.
Another potential replacement on the second team is redshirt sophomore Kelby Wickline, who not only can compete at center, but guard and tackle as well. His speed, agility and movement makes him a candidate for any starting position on the offensive line and he’s someone the coaches will take a closer look at when it comes to center.
With it being spring practice and a time for coaches to experiment with different players at different positions, you can expect the offensive coaching staff to experiment with more players at center, maybe even some who may have never played it before, much like Jones last season.
There is one offensive lineman for sure that coaches will not give any looks at center and that is redshirt senior Kyle Bosch, who according to Holgorsen, is not built to play the position.
“He’s too fat,” Holgorsen joked. “He’d have a hard time getting that ball through his thighs.”
As of now, Jones is the top man at center after backing up Orlosky and playing his first full season at the position last season.
Jones is the biggest surprise of spring thus far according to Holgorsen and has shown a lot of progression so far this spring, earning him the top spot at the vacant center position.
“He did a pretty nice job last year, but it was his first year doing it,” Wickline said. “So, we think in time if he keeps pushing it and keeps working hard and we keep working with him, he’ll be a candidate that has shown some good things.”
Though Buccigrossi’s injury is a significant blow to a progressing center position as far as competition and depth, the fact that Jones has emerged as the top guy and the coaches seem to have lots of confidence in him, sets the foundation for that position and makes it somewhat stable.
The depth chart is far from being official, but as of now, it looks as if the Mountaineers will face the same challenge as last season. That being, finding the replacement for its starting center. Buccigrossi’s injury is a setback, but the good thing is that it’s still early and there’s still time to work out different players, and see who’ll step up and find a capable backup.
The same will have to be done to the wide receiver position, which has become extremely thin, with injuries to Ka’Raun White and Marcus Simms. Simms, who’s out with a concussion is expected to be back in a few days.
“We got guys that I don’t know their names out there running routes,” Holgorsen said. “We need more numbers at receiver.”
In the meantime, more running backs and tight ends are taking reps at receivers such as redshirt junior Trevon Wesco, sophomore Kennedy McKoy, redshirt senior Elijah Wellman and freshman Tevin Bush.
In the midst of injuries and position competitions, more experimenting and moves will take place this spring for West Virginia, but some things are bound to change when fall camp arrives and more players show up.
“It’s kind of a working progress right now,” Wickline said.