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Offensive line full of question marks for WVU

| Sunday, Aug. 12, 2001

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Junior left tackle Lance Nimmo's situation might be the best way to illustrate how inexperienced West Virginia's offensive line will be this season.

Nimmo, a graduate of Laurel High School, has never started a collegiate game. He played some last season, but it was as a backup to starter Matt Wilson.

Still, Nimmo will be asked to assume a leadership role on the Mountaineers offensive line. He's also penciled in as the starter at left tackle.

There's a simple reason why Nimmo has gone from backup to leader in a few months - experienced offensive lineman have become a luxury item in Morgantown.

Take away the 12 games senior right guard Brad Knell started last season, and there's not one player with any starting experience.

First-year offensive line coach Rick Trickett has the monumental task of molding together a line with players who saw most of last season from the sidelines. It's also Trickett, who's faced with the task of piecing together a line quickly.

'That's what they pay me for, and that's why they have coach written across the top of my hat,' said Trickett, who was the offensive line coach at LSU last season. 'Obviously, it's a lot more difficult than if you had four or five veteran guys.'

The Mountaineers play their first game Sept. 1 at Big East rival Boston College. A few missed blocks, bad snaps and communication problems on the offensive line, and the Mountaineers could easily have a conference loss before the meat of the conference schedule arrives in October.

'After our first drive against BC, we'll know where our line is at because the coaches won't be on the field. There's going to be a live defense, and there's going to be a crowd,' Nimmo said.

Only five offensive lineman on WVU's roster started a game last season. Four of the five - Tanner Russell, Rick Gilliam, Terry Dixon and Wilson - have graduated.

The players won't be the only new part to WVU's line. First-year coach Rich Rodriguez's up-tempo, no-huddle offense will put an emphasis on improving the physical condition of linemen. Many of the blocking schemes implemented by Trickett will also be new.

'They're still learning,' Rodriguez said. 'There's a lot of technique that coach Trickett is teaching them that has been different than what they've done in the past.'

The only certainty after the first week of preseason camp is that Knell will start at right guard. If he stays healthy, Nimmo will likely become the starter at left tackle.

The rest of the positions are up for grabs.

Junior Zack Dillow - an Albert Gallatin graduate - is currently listed as the starting center on the depth chart ahead of redshirt freshman Justin Williams and junior Josh Kelly.

At left guard, junior Ken Sandor and senior Jason Brooks are battling for the starting job. Bethel Park graduate Greg Mittleider has a chance to earn some playing time, but he has yet to practice because of a back injury.

The most intriguing battle could be at right tackle where junior Tim Frost and sophomore Tim Brown are battling for the starting job. Frost played 12 games as a backup tight end last season, and he caught a one-yard touchdown pass last September during a 29-24 victory at Temple.

'He's got a lot of natural, god-given ability,' Trickett said. 'I don't know how long it will take, but down the road he has a chance to be a decent player.'

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