MORGANTOWN - When Pat Eger found out he was being asked to play the only position on the offensive line he'd never played before, the first thing he did was seek counsel.
And where better to go - at least at West Virginia - to find out the tricks of playing center than to the guy who held down the position for the last four years, Joe Madsen?
"After pro day he was over at my house and I said, 'Joe, I'm having trouble with my snaps,'" Eger recalled. "He said, 'Honestly, I don't know what to tell you. It's just natural for me.'"
Well, so much for passing down knowledge.
As West Virginia progresses through spring drills - the Mountaineers are off this week for spring break and resume a week from today - there are plenty of highly visible replacement battles going on, particularly on offense. Geno Smith has to be replaced at quarterback, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey as the go-to receivers, and the entire middle of the offensive line is open with the departure of guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Braun and Madsen at center.
And perhaps the vacancy at center is just as visible and critical as any other. Sure, the quarterback and receiver battles are the sexy ones, right? But what about that center's job?
Center snaps have simply not been an issue the last four years. Madsen might have had a handful of bad snaps in the 50 games he started over that time. Because of that, the position was largely taken for granted.
If there's a misfire on a snap in the opening game of the 2013 season, though, suddenly everyone will be interested in the center position.
And just so you know, if Eger steps into the job and seamlessly replaces Madsen, it won't be because he's a natural.
"It's been rough. The first day in pads my snaps were all over the place,'' Eger said. "I've never been used to somebody being two inches away from your face as soon as you come off the ball. But I'm starting to get used to it.''
To compound matters, Eger is required to learn two snaps, not one. The great majority of the time the Mountaineers line up in the shotgun. But toward the end of last season coach Dana Holgorsen more and more liked moving his quarterback up to the line of scrimmage, just to present some different looks.
"They're both new to me,'' Eger said. "There's a lot less room for error [in the shotgun snap]. If they're under center the ball can't go five yards to the left or the right.
"I got it down pretty well in the offseason, but whenever you line up and do it with someone in front of you hitting you in the face it gets a little bit different.''
Not that Eger is complaining, mind you.