Big 12: Mountaineers anchored by OT Colton McKivitz

    Colton McKivitz has been an anchor for one of the Big 12's best offenses for the last two seasons. How does he project to the NFL?

    The West Virginia Mountaineers are entering a time of transition in the Big 12. Head coach Dana Holgersen left to go take the Houston job. QB Will Grier is now a member of the Carolina Panthers after being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Left tackle Yodny Cajuste was a third-round selection by the Patriots. All three of their starting wide receivers from last season are gone. Defensive standouts David Long, Keny Robinson, and Derrek Pitts are gone.

    Coming is new head coach Neal Brown from Troy and with him is QB Austin Kendall, who transferred from Oklahoma to West Virginia. Despite all this transition, there’s one player stands out as an anchor to ground the team.

    OT Colton McKivitz

    A 35-game starter for the Mountaineers, McKivitz’s high level of play has helped West Virginia finish with top-20 offenses in 2017 and 2018 (8th last season). He’s an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention player, as well as All-Big 12 Academic Team. At 6’7 312 lbs, the Redshirt Senior has great size to play the position.

    His experience and versatility will help his chances to land in the NFL. He’s taken starts at left and right tackle as well as at right guard. He settled in at right tackle last season, and is now transitioning to left tackle to replace Yodny Cajuste from last season.

    If he can successfully pull off the transition to left tackle and play at a high level like he did at right tackle, McKivitz will definitely hear his name called in the first few rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.

    I spoke to Coach Paul Alexander, who worked with McKivitz this offseason and very graciously spared some time to listen to my questions. I asked how about Colton’s transition to the left tackle position and he had this to say:

    “He will do great on the left this year. He’s a good athlete with strength and balance. He has very good instincts and football IQ. He’s been working to use hands and footwork that he used at RT.”

    It seems like his transition is expected to go well, and the Mountaineers desperately need him to continue his high level of play.


    McKivitz is almost the exact opposite of Yodny Cajuste from last season. While Cajuste was more athlete than offensive tackle, McKivitz has the true fundamentals of his position down. He isn’t the same athlete Cajuste is, but he plays the position better.

    McKivitz demonstrated a great understanding of using his hands in pass protection, consistently stonewalling pass rushers. I thought his best game was against TCU, who had two pass rushers drafted in the top-50 of the 2019 NFL Draft with LJ Collier and Ben Banogu.

    McKivitz demonstrated really light and smooth feet. His lower body fluidity shows up in game and he moves so well laterally. This play is against Ben Banogu #15. Banogu uses that explosive first-step and fires off the line. McKivitz fires off as well and his footwork keeps him in excellent position to wall off Banogu.

    His footwork keeps him in position long enough for him to fire his hands up and lock Banogu down. Excellent rep against an explosive pass rusher.

    This happened again in the Iowa State game, arguably the worst game West Virginia played this season.

    McKivitz is also a very “heads-up” player at tackle. I’ve noticed a consistent ability in blitz pickup and recognition, which is another feather in his cap.

    Texas Tech runs a T-E stunt. McKivitz engages with the crashing end, then uses that lateral ability to full effect to pick up the looping tackle and keeps him off the QB. Clean and effortless rep.

    I also love his physical style of play. McKivitz isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the trenches and impose his will on defenders.

    McKivitz was viewed as a potential top 100 prospect last season before returning to West Virginia. Our own Tony Pauline gave him a round 2-3 grade last season and The Athletic’s Dane Brugler highlighted him as an interesting player in the Big 12 this season. I expect him to be viewed as around the same or even higher in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft. His attitude and work ethic suggest a player that could be a Senior Bowl standout as well. He should be a riser up many draft boards come the offseason.

    Special thanks to Coach Paul Alexander (@CoachPaulAlex on Twitter) for taking the time to answer my questions about Colton McKivitz. Coach Alexander has done great work with the Bengals and Cowboys in the past, so hearing his opinion with McKivitz was a valuable insight

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