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July 10, 2014

WVU OL named to Outland Trophy watch list

MORGANTOWN — Offensive linemen mostly are inconspicuous, save for the moment the television camera zeroes in on them following a holding call that wipes out a touchdown or first-down run, but West Virginia’s Quinton Spain stands out in a crowd.

At 6-foot-5 and 332 pounds he is hardly a shrinking violet, and that may prove to be a good thing this year as he tries to make a name for himself as a potential NFL draft pick next season.

That got off to a good start on Thursday when he was one of 64 offensive linemen named to the 2014 Outland Trophy watch list, presented annually to the nation’s top interior lineman, either offensive or defensive.

Spain, who is about to begin his senior season at left guard, is the only WVU player represented on the list and one of only nine Big 12 players selected for the honor. By comparison, the SEC had 19 offensive linemen on the Outland Trophy watch list.

As might be expected, the five power NCAA Division I Bowl Subdivision Conferences dominated. Following the SEC were the Pac-12 (11), Big Ten (9), ACC (9) and Big 12 (9). Iowa, Kansas State, Michigan State and Ole Miss all placed teammates on the list.

The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are part of the FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects the 26-man first team and eventually the Outland finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award; ends are not eligible.

Spain has been primed for greatness since arriving at WVU out of Petersburg, Virginia, a mammoth 360-pound tackle at the time. He spent a redshirt season getting his body into college football shape and learning how to play against people who could match him in size and strength.

Then he bounced back and forth between guard and tackle but now has found a home at left guard and he feels that will help him in the NFL draft.

“That’s a reason I came back, too, because I’m going to be focusing on one position and it will better me for the draft,” he said this spring. “Guard is more physical, and that’s my strength, so I like to play inside.”

Earlier in his career he had professed a preference to play on the outside at tackle.

With three starters gone from last year’s starting offensive line, Spain is expected to serve as the leader on this year’s line.

“Last year I was a leader, too, but I’m more of a leader this year because we got younger guys,” he said. “I got to do more teaching and make sure everybody’s on the same page and all that stuff.”

Spain is the third Mountaineer to be named to pre-season watch list, joining safety Karl Joseph on the Bednarik Award list and punter Nick O’Toole on the Ray Guy Award list.

Joseph was overlooked on Thursday by the committee that put together the Bronko Nagurski Watch List for the best defensive player of the year.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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