Tackles Daniel Inman, Ken Shackleford and Dennis Rowland are 6-7, 6-5 and 6-9, respectively. Guards Max Jean-Giles and Nick Jones are 6-4 and 6-3. That’s a combined foot taller than the biggest of Mountaineer lineman (Ernest Hunter and Keilein Dykes, at 6-4), meaning the No. 8 Bulldogs (10-1) should have a reach advantage.
That’s negated, however, by No. 11 WVU’s (10-1) ability to gain leverage against the solid front. Shorter players mean less area to cover coming off the ball, and a potential to move much larger players through technique.
“If you can’t move a 6-9 guy, you shouldn’t be playing football,” Dykes said. “It should be an advantage. I can’t tell you if they are stronger than we are, but they are taller. I can see that.”
Dykes can also tell UGA’s NFL-caliber linemen are well-heeled in technique and footwork. West Virginia might – at best – match that output so it’s chance to slow Georgia’s three-headed rushing attack and pressure mobile quarterback D.J. Shockley will come via leverage.
“We have to get a great pad level,” WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “They must lead the country in six, seven and eight yard runs. It’s always second and three. There o-line gets on guys. Tackles 6-8 and 6-9? Our basketball team isn’t that big.”
The emphasis on playing physical must also come via control. WVU can’t leave its running lanes when pressuring plays, and must not peel off wideouts when Shockley escapes the front seven pressure and runs. The Mountaineers are also, for the first tike under fifth-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, rolling in seven defensive linemen. Against Maryland, in the 2004 Gator Bowl, WVU had just four healthy players up front.
Consider that Dykes and Hunter – still eligible in his fifth year because of a leg break against the Terps his freshman season – pair with Craig Wilson to start. WVU then rolls in an entire new line with Warren Young, Andre Weright and Pat Leibig. Rusher Johnny Dingle can also provide snaps, allowing West Virginia to be healthier than it has at any time under Rodriguez and the 3-3-5 odd stack.
“We have 6-7 kids getting 20-40 snaps,” Casteel said. “In the past, we would start wearing down at week seven or eight. They have not backed down. It’s a huge challenge.”
West Virginia will also try to add a handful of new fronts and looks designed to fool and at force the speedy Bulldogs to be more deliberate in their offense.
“We now not only have fresh legs, but we have more options with what we can do,” Hunter said. “And Dykes and Dingle have impressed. That’s why they are on that SWAT team, when teams go to pass. Georgia has great natural talent, but there are some things we can do, like leverage, that can help us. I have tunnel vision with everything else, I guess, but I am looking forward to it.
“We have to get under them. Guys that are tall are usually also long, so we’ll have to keep their hands off of us. But bigger bodies mean more body to hit. They play good football, and because they are that tall does not mean they can’t get low. We will still have to work.”