MORGANTOWN — All you really need to know about Quinton Spain and his approach to this, his senior season at West Virginia, is his Twitter handle:
Spain is taking this year serious … and doing it in such a way you wouldn’t have predicted if you saw him when he first came into the program.
He was big … maybe as much as 390 pounds, some say.
Spain was also shy and quiet, really just a big kid away from home, which is Petersburg, Virginia, a place that had already turned out one rather large-sized famous athlete, basketball Hall of Famer Moses Malone.
Believe it or not, as big as Spain was, he had to grow into the position, emotionally and in maturity.
It wasn’t easy, for he did so with all eyes on him and with much being predicted for him. He was unable, at his size, to hide in the background.
Spain was a guard, then was a tackle.
Now he is a redshirt senior and Spain has evolved into a leader.
“When I first came here I got here late, so I had to get used to the system and all that stuff. Now I’ve been here a while, so I became a leader,” he said.
That doesn’t just come with being a senior.
“I just can’t say I’m the leader. You have to earn it. No one will lead anyone if you are doing things wrong,” Spain said. “On and off the field, people are looking at me so I have to make sure I’m doing the right things. I can’t lead them in the wrong way.”
Most think people draw leadership from within, that it’s an innate quality, but that is only part of it.
Some are born leaders; some are made.
Spain wasn’t an obvious choice to grab for the role, but he watched others, and as they walked through college life, they left footsteps in which he could follow.
“Josh Jenkins was the man I looked to,” Spain said, referring to the former guard out of Parkersburg High. “He taught me a lot of things. We play as a unit, and you have to make sure all the line looks up to you. There’s no Is on the field.
“You have to lead on the field, too. Off the field, it’s not about football. On the field, it’s all about football, so it’s two different things.”
And Spain is leading in both areas. He has stayed trouble free and become a star player on the field, while being named to the Outland Trophy watch list and an All-Big 12 preseason selection.
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The linebacker position remains crowded with as many as 18 in camp at present, and with about seven taking regular repetitions.
Two players who figure in the mix remain out with injuries in Jared Barber and Brandon Golson, but defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is expecting them to make it back.
As things now stand at the Sam linebacker spot, Edward Muldrow, Isaiah Bruce and Shaq Petteway are taking the reps. Nick Kwiatkoski and Al-Rasheed Benton are doing most of the heavy lifting in the middle, while the Will linebacker spot is missing Golson, leaving Wes Tonkery and Sean Walters to do most of the work.
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One of the best battles in camp has been going on while K.J. Dillon recovers from a sprained ankle, which he suffered when in Florida while home for a week before camp opened.
Dillon is now back, but Jeremy Tyler and Dravon Henry have been duking it out for the No. 2 spot at the spur position.
“They are battling back and forth,” Gibson said. “The battle is far from over. They still have a couple of weeks.”
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One of the unrecognized bonuses in camp this year has been the work of new defensive graduate assistant Anthony Leonard, who was a solid linebacker for the Mountaineers just a couple of years back.
“Anthony is going to be a great coach,” said Gibson. “He’s a guy who has played here and loves West Virginia. What’s good is when we’re showing cut-ups or film the kids get to see him on that film. When he starts talking to the kids, their ears perk up. He’s just a great guy to have around.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel