MORGANTOWN - Many players don't know what it's like to learn a new position until they are actually out there and in the middle of everything football asks of them.
For others, the realization sinks in some time later.
Shaq Petteway figured the reason he was bulking up in the offseason was so that he'd be able to play inside and outside linebacker for West Virginia after playing as a safety as a true freshman last season. His suspicions weren't confirmed until last Wednesday, when players reported and Petteway was told he'd begin practicing the next day as an inside linebacker.
The first day was entirely new to him, so he decided to withhold judgment for a while. The waiting ended the next morning.
"The alarm went off and I opened my eyes and looked at my phone and thought, 'Dang, I've got to do it again,' " Petteway said. "I got out of bed and my legs, my neck, my traps, everything was sore."
Petteway was a very good high school linebacker for Ohio powerhouse Steubenville, where he made 301 tackles in three seasons, but played the outside. Last season, he was a reserve spur safety and was even farther from the line of scrimmage and the middle of the field.
In the spring, the new defensive coaches moved him to the "star" linebacker position, which is outside and combines linebacker and safety.
He's a "Sam" linebacker now, right in the middle of the field, and he often gets the feeling he's running in traffic - and there are Mack trucks instead of cars.
"It's a lot different on my body," Petteway said. "I don't feel like I was as sore in the spring as I am now, but that's due to the fact I'm taking on Joe Madsen and Jeff Braun and Josh Jenkins and Quinton Spain."
In the past at WVU, Petteway might run into an offensive lineman five or six times in a practice. He was actually better off slinking around them to make a play. Now he has to meet those bigger bodies again and again, and often as the proper way to make the play.
"You have to be nasty and you have to be able to bring it every day, every play," he said.
The position tends to bring that out of players, even as one as smooth and collected as Petteway is off the field. On Monday, the first day in pads and with contact, Petteway slammed into a lineman for the umpteenth time and thought the 6 foot, 5 inch, 335-pound Spain pushed and pulled a little too long after the whistle.
So Petteway went back at Spain, never mind the 5 inches and 110 pounds Spain had on him. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Keith Patterson certainly didn't.