• By John Antonik
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  • April 21, 2011 05:53 PM
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With regular tackles Don Barclay and Jeff Braun still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, their time away from the football field has given younger players such as Quinton Spain an opportunity to get more reps and learn Dana Holgorsen’s new offense.

Spain, at 6-foot-5 and 348 pounds, is by far West Virginia’s biggest offensive lineman. He played in the U.S. Army All-American game after his senior year in 2009 and was rated among the top five players in Virginia while playing at Petersburg High. Even more impressively, Spain played high school basketball where he showed nifty footwork and athleticism for a man his size.

Now a redshirt freshman offensive tackle at WVU, Spain admits the first three weeks of spring drills have been quite a learning experience trying to block speed rushers Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller.

“Going up against the best player in the nation (Irvin) means when he leaves I can block anybody,” Spain reasoned.

Naturally, Spain is used to playing against guys much slower than Irvin and he says it has been a challenge getting out of his stance and getting a piece of him coming off the edge. In high school, Spain simply dominated the guy across from him.

“In college everything is just fast,” Spain said. “I could take plays off in high school, but you can’t take plays off in college.”

Because Holgorsen runs an offense that is easy for players to learn, Spain says he is picking things up pretty quickly. The fact that he got in on the ground floor and is repping it every day also helps.

“Last year I wasn’t caught up on the plays, but since we’ve got a new offense I was here since day one so I’m caught up,” he said. “I’m on top of everything.”

It also helps to have a veteran player lined up next to him in senior Josh Jenkins to help when things are not quite as clear as they should be.

“You’ve got to trust your guard and know he’s going to be there. You’ve got to have faith in him,” Spain said.

He does. Now if he could just get his hands on Irvin …

“When I do get my hands on him he can’t go anywhere,” Spain laughed, adding that he really likes it when Holgorsen calls draw plays to Irvin’s side, allowing him to go forward instead of having to take a step backward.

Spain said his primary goal is to try and earn a spot in the O-line rotation when everybody is healthy and back out on the field when fall camp begins. Getting these important reps right now certainly helps.

“Nothing is given to me,” he said. “I’ve just got to work hard.”