By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
There is currently running on television, seemingly every four or five minutes, or so it seems, an ad for Xfinity in which a person is so engrossed in the mobile TV feed he is watching as he goes out to get the morning paper that he fails to notice a puma sneaking into his house through an open door.
After returning, there is a growl, and the next thing you see is him on a stretcher being rolled out to an ambulance by EMTs so engrossed in that mobile TV feed of a football game that the stretcher rolls away without them noticing.
The ad cuts to the football game, players in a huddle as a large offensive lineman joins, the quarterback peeking at his wrist band which has not the plays, but instead the very same TV feed of the game they are playing.
The offensive lineman peeks, says, “He’s a big guy,” to which the quarterback responds, “That’s you.”
So proud of the way he looks, he struts out of the huddle as if he’d just caught a 30-yard touchdown pass.
We mention this not to sell any product but to introduce you to life as Quinton Spain, West Virginia University’s 335-pound offensive guard, knows it.
If you see a big guy in the Mountaineer huddle that really catches your eye because of his size, it’s Spain, but in many ways he wishes you would notice him for something else … being a pretty good football player.
Take WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s analysis of his play at Kansas State in the Mountaineers’ latest loss, one in which at least Spain hopes to build upon.
“Quinton Spain played his best game last week,” the head coach said.
This is important because in football, it’s what’s up front that counts, and if you can’t block you can’t really move the football and to date, this has been a rebuilding offensive line for WVU with Spain the pillar around whom it was being built.
At season’s start, he was at the most-important left tackle spot, guarding the quarterback’s blind spot, but in an effort to get more experience on an offensive line that lost guards Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins and center Pat Madsen, Spain was move to guard so veteran Nick Kindler could play.
Offensive numbers will tell you that the line has not been overwhelming in either the run game or pass protection, ranking sixth in the Big 12 in rushing offense and seventh in most sacks allowed.
The move of Spain from tackle to guard was not necessarily an easy one for WVU to make.
Spain has NFL dreams and was content at tackle.
He wants to be a tackle. I think he can play either if he puts his mind to it,” said Ron Crook, the offensive line coach who is overseeing the transition, although Spain maintains it isn’t really a big deal.
“No big transition,” he said. “There’s just more space out there at tackle and less space inside, but it’s not a big difference.”
Certainly, Spain can fill space.
“I’ve been playing tackle all the way up. It’s like my first nature. But it’s good for me to play guard too,” he said, thinking ahead to having something extra to offer NFL scouts
It’s important that Spain and Co., are at their best against a strong TCU defense, the two teams coming into the game needing to win three of their four games to become bowl qualified. TCU leads the Big 12 in sacks with 3.00 per game and is second in rushing defense, allowing just 124.2 yards a game.
WVU is hoping to get center Pat Eger from Thomas Jefferson in Pleasant Hills, Pa., back after suffering an ankle sprain against K-State last week.
Holgorsen felt, for the most part, the offensive line has shown improvement as the season has worn on, but that it is not where it needs to be.
“The consistency that we have is not winning football,” he said. “We have been improving up front. Pat Eger was really good before he went down. (Tyler) Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Marquise Lucas are young, and they are going to keep improving. In my opinion, (Curtis) Feigt and (Nick) Kindler need to get better.
“I think they took a step back last week, and they know that. They need to get better this week.”
A strong offensive line can cover up a lot few problems, but not all of them.
“You can have average receivers if you have a great offensive line. I feel differently about the quarterback position. I think you need good quarterback play regardless if you have a good or bad offensive line,” Holgorsen said. “The good quarterbacks can bail out a bad offensive line at times. I don’t know if a good offensive line can balance out a bad quarterback.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.