MORGANTOWN — The saying is ageless, but proven time after time.

Good things come in small packages.

Don’t believe it? Ask any woman who has gotten an engagement ring, a teeny little flip up box with a lifetime of happiness in it.

West Virginia’s football team went into this season offering a suggestion that the opposite was true.

It beefed up its offensive line. It muscled up its defensive line.

And then the season started and all of a sudden they were shopping for some of their most-needed players’ uniforms in the kiddie department.

Take David Long, who may be the best linebacker in the Big 12 — or the country, for that matter. Dick Butkus he ain’t, not at 5-foot-11 and 223 pounds.

Or take Josh Norwood, who his tackling his way into the cornerback rotation at 5-foot-10, 180.

There’s even Tevin Bush, a specialty offensive player who comes in for certain plays, who checks in at 5-foot-6, 160 pounds, and brings speed and clever moves.

But the Mountaineers outdid themselves on Saturday.

Faced with replacing Charlie Benton — a 6-foot-2, 213-pound Sam linebacker who suffered a knee injury in the opener — they listed Shea Campbell and Exree Loe as Nos. 1 and 2 on their depth chart, but instead they were planning to drop a depth charge on an unsuspecting Youngstown State at the position in the form of JoVanni Stewart.

Stewart stands but 5-feet, 8-inches tall and weighs in at 195 pounds ... and that’s probably with his full football equipment on.

He was playing safety and probably wasn’t really big enough to play there, considering that he would often have to deal with tight ends who can outweigh him by 50 pounds and stand seven or eight inches taller.

When it was noted to Gibson, who never will be confused with a tight end, either, if it wasn’t true that his team was getting smaller, he responded snappily:

“Yeah, don’t you like small people?”

Then he laughed, especially considering the person who posed the question was Greg Hunter, who tips the scale more on the offensive lineman side himself.

Gibson, though, had solid reasoning as to why he went to Stewart despite his size ... and maybe even because of it.

First there was the basic reason that hung over all it.

“I told you this a bunch, I think JoVanni Stewart is one of our best 11 football players,” Gibson said. “That’s why he ended up were he was. In no way am I disappointed in Shea Campbell or Exree Loe and I told them so.”

Stewart, though, brings something a bit extra, making up for what he lacks in size.

“He’s a physical kid,” Gibson said, about to offer what is the ultimate compliment from him. “He’s a football player, flying around. He reminds me of [Josh] Norwood.”

Stewart had to get reps at the new position, having just move their two days before the game, and what better situation than a non-conference game against an FCS opponent?

“Those guys have gotten thousands of reps compared to his 150 reps this week,” Gibson said. “I needed to get him to play. I told Shea he would be playing.”

While that takes care of the timing of the move, why was it really necessary?

Gibson, you see, is looking into the future.

“What I’m looking more toward is when we get in the Big 12,” the defensive coordinator said. “He’ll be able to do a lot of good stuff for with his speed, his athleticism. We will be able to move him and blitz him. There’s a lot of things he’ll be good at.”

He’ll wind up sharing the position though.

“Can any of those 3 guys play a full game?” Gibson asked, about to offer an answer. “I want to get that one spot locked up with 3 guys. If it’s JoVanni as a blitzer, Shea as a run stopper and Exree as a guy who does both, that’s what we’ll do.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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