Some call offensive linemen the "big uglies". But, at No. 11 West Virginia they will be known as the 'Big Three" and as seniors Joe Madsen, Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins look to anchor a front wall that is expected to lead one of the top offenses in the country this fall.
"We believe they (Madsen, Braun and Jenkins) are one of the top units in the country," explained Mountaineer assistant Bill Bedenbaugh. "There is a ton of experience among them and they have already showed this summer that they are prepared to lead this team this year."
Madsen, who has been mentioned on just about every preseason honor squad listed, has started in all 38 games in which he has played while Braun has 26 straight starts under his belt-13 coming at right tackle in 2010 and the other half coming at left guard where he replaced Jenkins, who was forced to miss the 2011 campaign while recovering from knee surgery.
"Obviously, there are more than three people on the offensive line, but we feel very comfortable with those three in the middle," continued Bedenbaugh, who coaches the offensive line. "The key for us will be to find the right mix and that might include moving one of them to a tackle slot and putting a Nick (Kindler) or Curtis (Feigt) or Quinton (Spain) in at guard."
With 17 days remaining until the Thundering Herd from Marshall University invade Milan Puskar Stadium for the final edition of the Friends of Coal Bowl, it appears as though the front five will consist of Spain at left tackle, Jenkins at left guard, Madsen at center, Braun at right guard and junior Pat Eger at right tackle. However, the competition this month has been fierce with Kindler, senior John Bassler and redshirt freshmen Brandon Jackson, Marquis Lucas and Russell Haughton-James working their way into the three-deep rotation.
"Ideally, you'd like to have 10," Bedenbaugh explained. "You'd like to have two left tackles, two left guards, two centers, two right guards and two right tackles. But, that doesn't happen often.
"So, the key is to have as many as you can and make sure that they are prepared to play multiple positions on the line. That's a big deal. It's going to help us out this year."
Especially when the old gold and blue opens its inaugural season in the Big 12 when the Bears from Baylor University pay their first visit to Mountaineer Field on Saturday, Sept. 29.
"We are going to see some bigger defensive lines than we have seen in the past, deeper ones. So, we have to be able to play more people on offense so we don't run out of gas before the fourth quarter is over."
Which explains why the veteran assistant has been experimenting with different lineups and moving players around during the early stages of fall camp.
"Josh (Jenkins) got dinged up the other day and we were able to move Spain to left guard and Kindler up to left tackle and never missed a beat."