WVU center Pat Eger re-injures his ankle
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Just when Dana Holgorsen began feeling a little bit better about finding a center or two to work in the middle of his revamped offensive line, the most promising of the bunch went down with an ankle injury.
Pat Eger was hurt near the end of Tuesday's practice - the first for West Virginia since returning from spring break - and how serious it is remains to be seen.
It was the same ankle on which Eger had surgery just after the end of last season.
"I don't know the severity of it, but he didn't finish practice,'' Holgorsen said. "He's coming off that ankle surgery that kept him out for six of our first eight weeks of offseason conditioning. Pat was starting to get back into the swing of things and he went down. I hope it is not serious at all.''
Eger, who has started at both tackle and guard the last two seasons, is a fifth-year senior who was asked to move to center because the Mountaineers lost four-year starter Joe Madsen and his backup, guard Jeff Braun, to graduation. The spot is critical not only because of the center snaps, but also because the center makes all the line calls and adjustments.
The early returns on Eger's snaps were not good, but they've been improving.
"Madsen was around for a couple of days and had kind of worked with Pat a little bit with his snaps, which have drastically improved,'' Holgorsen said. "There were probably only 25 percent of the snaps in the first couple of days that were even fieldable. It was not good.
"But what do you expect? You're moving two guys to center that have never played center. They have really improved. Both Pat and [Tyler] Orlosky are doing some good things. They have to go against Shaq [Rowell] and Christian [Brown], two very big, capable bodies to play defensive nose tackle, so they have their work cut out for them. I'm pleased where it's at.''
Or at least he was prior to the injury to Eger.
"Our doctors don't know yet. It just happened,'' Holgorsen said. "I do believe that it's the same ankle, which he had his ankle cleaned up and was back in six weeks. Hopefully it's not any worse than that.''
There are, of course, other options at center. In addition to those already in the program, Holgorsen recruited a junior college center specifically because he was short-handed at the position. He's Stone Underwood, from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.
Whether Underwood is a viable candidate right away at the position is a great unknown, of course, until he arrives this summer.
"It's recruiting, which means we try and make the best decisions that we possibly can, but you really don't know what you are going to get until they are here practicing,'' Holgorsen said. "We thought enough about Stone to recruit him as a center. We knew we were thin at that position. We had no returning center coming back. The three guys that snapped the ball in the fall are all gone.
"You've got to have two to three centers on your team. It is like the quarterback position. If you have two, you get nervous so you really need to have three guys that can snap anyways. We're trying to develop two guys that we feel good about and will add him to the equation and add all three to compete in the fall, and then we will make a decision on who is one, two and three.''
"It's incredibly disappointing to see coming off his redshirt year. He has so much upside,'' Holgorsen said. "He was showing more improvement than any other offensive lineman that we had. He's a big, 6-foot-5, 315-pound guy that was moving phenomenally.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.