MORGANTOWN - The odds are Shawne Alston is fed up with the insistence that there is no place in Dana Holgorsen's offense for a 6-foot, 220-pound running back.
He's been asked about it so often through 10 spring practices at West Virginia that he's concocted a clever little anecdote. It serves as both a defense mechanism and an explanation for how he can fit into Holgorsen's offense.
"I think people have the misconception it's meant for a small back," Alston said, "because they've only seen small backs play in it."
The conversation was similar three summers ago when Robert Sands arrived as a 6-5, 195-pound safety. People hadn't seen too many kids that big play that free safety spot. So they thought he couldn't, or wouldn't, because players that tall usually end up somewhere else.
There were whispers early if he got any taller he might have to get a jersey in the 80s and find a home on offense. If he gained too much weight, perhaps he'd move down inside the box or learn to put his hand on the ground.
Three seasons and two All-Big East first team awards later, Sands might get drafted next week into the NFL as a safety.
It's not much different for Alston. He's made as much impact as anyone else at his position in the spring and, for what it's worth, he got the carry on the first play of the first scrimmage Saturday and later scored a touchdown.
However, he also suffered an undisclosed neck strain and missed Monday's workout. He's listed as day-to-day.
Holgorsen hasn't named anyone a starter or even a leader, but Alston is not to be excluded from a system that last season at Oklahoma State sprung 5-8, 200-pound Kendal Hunter for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns.
"The only thing that would keep us from not playing Shawne or a body type like Shawne is if he doesn't catch the ball or doesn't block or doesn't get yards when he runs the ball," said WVU's first-year offensive coordinator. "Whether he's 240 pounds or you're talking about a guy that weighs 140, it's the same thing."
In that regard, Alston is no different than sophomores Trey Johnson (5-10, 175) and Daquan Hargrett (5-6, 185) or freshman Vernard Roberts (5-9, 180), who has "probably shown the most improvement," Holgorsen said Monday.
Their skills may vary, but they have the same responsibility with the ball in their hands.
"It's still football," said Alston, who carried 56 times for 248 yards as a sophomore last season and emerged late in the schedule as a valuable change of pace.
"You've got to use your vision to find the holes.