MORGANTOWN -- The rapid improvement of West Virginia's offensive line play over the course of the season has surprised most observers.
In fact, it's even surprised the coach of the unit.
"They're probably further ahead than I envisioned they would be," said Rick Trickett, WVU's offensive line/assistant head coach. "I've been telling everybody for some time that these guys have been doing their jobs."
The starters consist of tackles Lance Nimmo (6-6, 275, jr.) and Tim Brown (6-5, 275, soph.), guards Ken Sandor (6-4, 280, jr.) and Brad Knell (6-5, 290, sr.) and center Zach Dillow (6-2, 270. jr.).
What Trickett sees now though, is one unit, not five players.
"I think they're beginning to understand why we've ask them to do things a certain way, because they see how it goes with what the guy next to them is doing," Trickett said. "They believe in what we're doing because they're seeing the results."
Last Saturday against Rutgers, the line paved the way for 446 yards rushing. Nimmo was named offensive champion for his performance.
"I think we're playing at a higher level than we were a few weeks ago," Nimmo said. "With the exception of the Virginia Tech game, I thought we played decent for most of the season, and have gotten better with each game.
"At this point, we've seen about every defensive front possible and pretty much know what to do from an experience standpoint."
Nimmo said the linemen are a close-knit group.
"We kind of view ourselves as a team within a team," he said. "We've been hanging out together all this season and we always work out together."
Dillow, who transferred to WVU in 1999, agreed.
"We've jelled as a unit and I think a good line has to have that connection, on and off the field," Dillow said. "We all hang out together outside of football and I think that has helped us on the field."
Dillow credited Trickett, known as a hard-to-please coach, for molding the group into a solid unit.
"I've been at Penn State and I was here two years previous and coach Trickett has brought more knowledge of offensive line play to me than any coach I've ever had," Dillow said. "Not only does he know it, he makes sure you know it, too.
"Coach Trickett won't let you dog it at all. Sometimes you don't like it at that time, but in the end, you know he's making you a better player."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org