Marysville High School graduate Tyler Connolly (middle) makes a block to free a West Virginia running back on Saturday. A redshirt freshman, Connolly played in his first college game, which was a 56-10 victory over Eastern Kentucky University. (Photo submitted)
It’s safe to say that Tyler Connolly’s football career has taken a bit of a long route since his playing days at Marysville High School.
Connolly was originally going to play on the collegiate level at the University of Akron.
A coaching change for the Zips, however, changed his mind.
Connolly was then all set to play at the University of Toledo.
Another coach, though, came calling.
“West Virginia’s coach (Neil Brown) called and asked me to visit,” said Connolly. “I really liked everything I saw and decided to go to West Virginia.”
Connolly, a 2019 graduate of Marysville High School, redshirted as a freshman.
He was able to practice with the team, but could not play in any games.
Instead, he spent a great deal of time becoming even bigger and stronger.
“I went through what West Virginia calls a ‘developmental (weight) lifting group,’” said Connolly. “It was a lot of hard lifting and there was a lot of conditioning in order for me to gain strength.
“We started early in the day (6 a.m.) and it was much more intense than the lifting I did in high school,” he said. “However, I know it’s really helped me because I’m coming off the ball better than I did last year.”
All of the 2019 work paid off as Connolly stepped foot on a Division I collegiate football field for the first time this past Saturday.
The 6-6, 330-pound lineman played the entire fourth quarter as an offensive tackle during the Mountaineers’ 56-10 drubbing of Eastern Kentucky University.
“I got in with some of the two’s and some of the third string,” he said.
Connolly said his performance on the field went pretty well for his first collegiate game.
He did, however, notice a big difference from high school football and the D-I college gridiron.
“The college game is so much faster,” said Connolly.
The former Monarch gridder and wrestler also said the competition is much greater.
“Everybody on a college team was a star on their high school squad,” he said.
Connolly said the biggest adjustment he’s had to make on the college level is the type of offense that is used by West Virginia.
“We ran the Wing T at Marysville High School, but here it’s a ‘zone scheme’ offense,” he said. “We always run out of the shotgun and we run a lot of stretch plays inside a zone.”
Connolly, said the biggest revision for him as an offensive lineman has been in his footwork.
“Your footwork has to just be right and it’s a lot more complex than when I played in high school,” he said. “In high school, I could maybe get away for a play or two if my footwork wasn’t exactly correct.”
“Here, your footwork coming off the ball has to be right.
“That took me some time to adjust to,” he said. “However, if it’s not right in our scheme, you can’t hit your block.”
Connolly is a sophomore academically and is majoring in Agribusiness. He wants to make a career in selling farm machinery.
Like many collegiate football programs, the Mountaineers were shut down due to the coronavirus in March.
“It was March 10, which is two days before my Mom’s birthday,” remembered Connolly. “We were shut down until June 10.”
Once the Mountaineers returned three months ago, it’s been full-steam ahead.
The Big 12, of which West Virginia is an affiliate, is one of the few Power 5 college football conferences that started the 2020 season on schedule.
The SEC and ACC are two others.
The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West are still sidelined – to date – due to COVID-19.
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