MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There is a bandage covering a cut on the inside of his right forearm and a black bruise beneath his right thumbnail. Scrapes decorate his neck like Rand McNally and four quarters of head banging football have left red imprints from where his helmet pressed against his forehead.
All of this is visible after the audible expressions of Nick Kwiatkoski flopping into a chair to discuss West Virginia's 41-7 win against Georgia State Saturday.
"That's definitely part of playing inside," the middle linebacker said. "You get hit a lot. You get hit on a majority of the plays, especially the run plays when they're trying to take you out. It takes a toll on you. Usually, you don't feel it until after the game."
Entering Saturday's 3:30 p.m. ESPNU game against Maryland (3-0) at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, the sophomore from Bethel Park, Pa., leads the Mountaineers (2-1) in tackles and has led the team in each game.
Those were the first three starts of his career.
Kwiatkoski (kwit-COW-skee) is tied for No. 51 nationally and No. 4 in the Big 12 with nine tackles per game.
Against the Panthers, Kwiatkoski had his first career sack and forced a fumble that led to a WVU touchdown and a 34-7 lead.
"It's his confidence," defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Keith Patterson said. "He understands the system. When you play with confidence, you play fast. Last year, he didn't have the reps to go out there and feel 100 percent confident. This year, he does."
Last year, Kwiatkoski was new to the position. He played receiver and safety in high school for West Virginia native Brad Metheny, and when he committed in July 2010, he seemed like a smart fit as a big safety in then-coordinator Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5.
Kwiatkoski, who was 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds on signing day in 2011, played in 12 games last season and was a backup Sam linebacker. Patterson, who was the co-coordinator last season and was put in charge in December, moved Kwiatkoski to the middle in the spring.
What Kwiatkoski knew about safety and didn't know about middle linebacker has helped tidy the transition.
"You focus more inside than outside, but when you're a safety, you've got to watch it all," Kwiatkoski said. "Changing the defense this year, a lot of people played the (3-3-5) stack and there are some small things and different tendencies that they were used to doing. I never played the stack.
"Now (Patterson) wants us to be more patient. Some of the old linebackers like to get downhill fast. I was never in there, so I don't try to get downhill."
It's not that Kwiatkoski can't get downhill. He can, witnessed by his sack when he raced through the middle of the line and chased the quarterback a step to his right before making the play.