MORGANTOWN - When Joe Madsen went to Dallas two weeks ago representing West Virginia at the Big 12's football media days, he did so sporting a freshly-shaved Mohawk.
It wasn't so much a statement of style as it was attitude.
"The 'Hawk speaks for itself,'' Madsen said this week, his 'do having grown a bit more shaggy. "It's a whole mentality.''
There's a lot of talk about mentality where West Virginia's offensive linemen are concerned these days. And as the Mountaineers wrapped up their third day of preseason camp Saturday - the first in pads - it was time to start walking the walk.
The term "nasty'' is thrown around a lot. And now is the time to start cultivating nastiness.
"O-line, you find out about them when they put the pads on,'' offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. "Playing offensive line is about being physical.''
True, offensive line play is a lot more than that. Technique and assignments are critical. Long gone are the days when 300-pound offensive linemen were simply tasked with stopping or moving like-sized defensive linemen who generally were in the same place snap after snap.
Line play is so sophisticated these days that WVU coach Dana Holgorsen pretty much dismisses any thought of true freshmen stepping in right away. At a skill position or on defense? Sure. But not on the offensive line.
Still, once those techniques and assignments become second nature and strength and flexibility are honed, the element that can then elevate one lineman over another is quite simple. It's the ability and the desire to be physical, to be nasty.
And that's perhaps the one trait Bedenbaugh is preaching about more than any other.
"Obviously some guys have it naturally,'' Bedenbaugh said Saturday morning before the Mountaineers had donned those pads for the first time. "Some guys are really good players and they aren't as nasty as you want them to be. I've had good players, guys who played in the NFL, who were that way. So you have to coach it. You have to instill it.
"You can have good technique, good [ability to follow] assignments, be able to block guys, but not be a tough, nasty guy. But when you're great, that's what you have. You're on your assignment, you're using great technique and you're tough and you're nasty. You can teach that if a guy wants to do it.''