MORGANTOWN - Don Barclay bristles at the notion that he and the rest of West Virginia's offensive line underachieved the past few years.
OK, so he doesn't simply scoff at the notion that there were issues with blocking. In fact, that goes almost without saying.
Getting tough yards in tough situations - particular short-yardage situations - was one of the Mountaineers' biggest problems over the course of the past three seasons. Sacks were up. Rushing yards were down. And much of the responsibility for that has to fall on those who are blocking.
To put all the blame on the shoulders of those blockers, though, is perhaps unfair. It was as much a system issue as anything else.
"I wouldn't say we've struggled the past few years,'' said the fifth-year senior left tackle. "I think what hurt us was trying to run power [football] when that's not the kind of offense we are. Our weight's not up [to where it should be in order] to do that.
"I think now people are going to see what they want to see, spreading out and [playing at] a faster pace. And we're going to be good at that this year. We have the line to do that.''
Indeed, the state of - and purpose of - West Virginia's offensive line over the course of the past few years has been ever changing. Take Barclay, for instance, because he's a perfect example.
Recruited by Rich Rodriguez's staff - he was a freshman who redshirted during the 2007 Fiesta Bowl season - Barclay arrived prepared to step into the strictly zone-blocking scheme that helped produce the wildly successful rushing numbers put up by guys like Steve Slaton and Pat White.
That was an offense, however, that lacked much of a passing threat. So when Rodriguez left and Bill Stewart stepped in, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and line coach Dave Johnson changed things. They kept some of the zone-blocking principles, but also tried to teach pass blocking and power blocking.
None of it seemed to work. Not only did West Virginia lose the quick-strike big runs that were produced in the Rodriguez spread, the line couldn't open holes for the power game (thus the third-and-short woes) and the number of sacks allowed increased each year. Yes, the number of passes thrown increased, too, but WVU still went from 27th in sacks allowed in 2008 to 57th in 2009 and 71st in 2010. The rate of sacks per passes thrown got steadily worse, too.
Blaming the line for that is probably fair, to a point. But the personnel on the line?
Perhaps they were simply being asked to do too much.
"If you're thinking too much, you're not going to be playing as well as you can,'' Barclay said. "If you're taking a power step you're going straight ahead usually. If you're taking a zone step you're going sideways. It's hard. I think what we're going to do is master what we're going to do and we're going to be great at it.''
That's all due, of course, to a change in philosophy. New coach Dana Holgorsen has completely revamped the offense and brought in a new line coach in Bill Bedenbaugh.