WVU football: Kindler has helped fill a need on the offensive line
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The story you're about to hear about Nick Kindler would seem outdated and out of place if not for the fact the subject and the timing have come to help define this sometimes indescribable season for West Virginia.
The senior offensive lineman from Camp Hill, Pa., will make just the sixth start of his career when the Mountaineers play at TCU on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPNU), but it's the fifth in a row, each at left tackle.
He hasn't been WVU's best offensive lineman. Coach Dana Holgorsen said Tuesday that Kindler "took a step back last week" against Kansas State. Yet Kindler has helped the Mountaineers find their best configuration up front because Kindler was ready to jump into the fray when the Mountaineers needed it.
And it's not really all that unexpected from Kindler. Take this exploit from the spring as an example.
"We were down at a donor's dinner in Charleston," Kindler remembered. "There were a bunch of athletes from all across the school and different sports."
Behind the podium speaking to the crowd was a gymnast. Her name isn't important, but Kindler knows her well because she's his girlfriend's roommate and Kindler knew she hadn't been feeling all that well.
"She was a little sick that day and when she went up to talk, she got a little overheated by all the lights up there," Kindler said.
Kindler was paying attention to the speech, but also to the speaker.
"She actually fainted," said Kindler, who was standing next to Kevin Noreen, a forward on the men's basketball team.
"We both looked at each other, like, 'Maybe we should go up there.' I just kind of ran in there. She was on her way down. Her coach was standing behind her and he was able to keep her up, but when I went up there, he was able to put her in my arms I just laid her down."
That's Nick Kindler. Protector of the blindside. Willing and able to act when the situation requires it.
He'd been a backup right tackle and left tackle in the first four games, combining to play about as many snaps as a starter when he subbed in to spell either Curtis Feigt on the right or Quinton Spain on the left.
Yet the line wasn't right. It wasn't what Holgorsen or offensive line coach Ron Crook wanted. They'd already made one change, taking backup guard Pat Eger and making him the center so his experience could rub off on the players around him. But it still wasn't quite enough. They realized Spain was better off at left guard. They knew redshirt freshman tackle Adam Pankey was coming fast as he recovered from spring surgery to repair a torn ACL.
So to get Spain, the team's top lineman, where he needed to be to flourish and to accommodate Pankey's talent and his return to health, to say nothing of to add needed experience up front, Kindler became the starter at left tackle.
"The thing he brings to us by having so much experience and playing in so many games is he can feel things happening and see things happening a little bit quicker than maybe somebody in his first year who's still learning things and still figuring things out," Crook said. "That was the big thing. Some of the changes we made were about getting guys out there who've played a lot of games over the course of the last two or three years."
Kindler was merely a late arrival, though someone who'd been pushing for that spot for a long time. He was a part of the 2009 recruiting class that included Eger and Feigt as a defensive lineman, but also Ryan Spiker, Jordan Weingart and Cole Bowers, each who didn't make it with the Mountaineers.
They all redshirted in 2009 and figured to be ready to go a year later. Kindler needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder that cost him the entire year.
"The guys I came in with were able to get more advanced on the field by taking reps," he said. "I was trying to catch up in the film room, but there's nothing like taking actual reps in practice or a game when you're young. You can learn so many more things so much quicker."
» Turn to KINDLER/9D
West Virginia offensive lineman Nick Kindler, right, has started the last five games at left tackle.
Article Continued Below
See KINDLER on Page D09
» Continued From 5D
He was healthy again a year later, but that 2011 season was the first spring with Holgorsen and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. Kindler's first impression was compromised by his recovery and the reality he couldn't shake: He was behind his peers.
"The mistakes I was making out on field were mistakes all my buddies I came in with were making and correcting the season before in their transition from their redshirt years," Kindler said. "It was just frustrating because you'd always go, 'Gosh, I've seen this a million times before on film? Why can't I get my feet and my hands right and do it?'" Kindler figured things out and played a reserve role late in the season at both left tackle and guard. He was a backup at right tackle last season and had what he called a "very mediocre" performance in his first career start against Kansas State, though he maintained a role as a reserve the rest of the way.
"I always worry, I'm always kind of on edge about whether I'm going to get reps, even as an older guy," he said. "But I know by now you have to keep trying to prove yourself, no matter what your role is or how much playing time you're getting."
This season he's brought together the sum of his experiences at WVU to help unite an offensive line that needed some kind of push in the right direction.
"The consistency that we have is not winning football, but we have been improving up front," Holgorsen said. "Quinton Spain played his best game last week. Pat Eger was really good before he went down. Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Marquis Lucas are young and they are going to keep improving.
"They're still inconsistent, still learning to play together and still improving. I am pleased with their attitude and their will to get better."