Preston learned from Arndt on way to starting role - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Preston learned from Arndt on way to starting role

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WVU linebacker Xavier Preston takes the field for the Mountaineers (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) WVU linebacker Xavier Preston takes the field for the Mountaineers (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

If you see 8 or 5 heading in your direction, just get out of the way.

That’s the message West Virginia sophomore running back Kennedy McKoy had for the rest of the Big 12 this week when he was asked who on the Mountaineers’ defense was the hardest hitter. He quickly rattled off the names of senior safety Kyzir White and senior linebacker Xavier Preston.

Saturday marks the third-straight practice with full pads for the West Virginia, and the first scrimmage of camp, so White and Preston will have plenty of opportunities to prove McKoy right on the field. For Preston, though, there will be much more to prove than just how hard he can hit his opposition.

The Stuart, Fla. native is finally on pace to get the role he’s been looking for in WVU’s defense since he first joined the team. Last year, he was supplanted as the starting Sam linebacker last season when Martinsburg’s Justin Arndt outperformed Preston throughout the offseason.

Preston will bring a different look to the position if for no other reason than that he and Arndt are not the least bit similar physically. Arndt was listed at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, while Preston checks in at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds and is easily one of the most imposing figures on the field at any given time.

“I’m a little bit more taller, so he’s able to get up under linemen on the pulling blocks,” Preston said, comparing himself with Arndt. “With me, I have to make sure I get my hips low. I have to make sure I take on the power from o-linemen and things like that. Just him wiggling around or anybody that tries to block him, that’s what he excelled at.”

Arndt also excelled in the mental aspects of the game. He arrived on campus for the 2012, so when Preston came in 2014, Arndt already had two years of experience under his belt. 

“Every day, he came in, he made sure he was on time, he made sure he came in prepared, he got extra work, he was in the film room, he was in there with [athletic trainer] Dave [Kerns], he made sure his body was right and he just did everything right,” Preston said of Arndt. “I can learn from that as a young guy coming up behind him.”

In 2016, Arndt finished as the team’s leading tackler with 84 takedowns to go along with three sacks. Preston, in 10 games of action, only had 11 tackles. He entered last offseason believing he could claim the weak side position as his own, but he didn’t make his case in practice and the results weren’t there on the field.

“Nothing’s given, honestly,” Preston said. “Every day, you have to come out here and work and be prepared to work and have expectations of being better.”

That sounds like a senior who has looked at the schedule and understands that he only has 12 games guaranteed in his career. So far in camp, he is doing what he can to earn the trust from his coaches and his teammates that finally, after three years in the program, he is ready to be the player they thought they were getting when he was recruited out of Jensen Beach High School.

“It’s his time, and he knows that, so he’s preparing the right way,” Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said of Preston. “He’s practicing the right way. He brings a lot of juice to the defense and talks a little bit too much at times, but if that’s what it takes to get everybody going, I’m good with it for now.”

Too-much-talking-juice – that old favorite beverage of football camp participants everywhere. Preston just smiles when he is told what Gibson said about his talkative approach to practice.

“We do get a little chatty out there. I make sure I stay on top of guys and I tell them stay on top of me as well,” Preston said. “We just really go out there, try to have fun and make sure everybody’s doing their job.”

It took some time, but this fall, it appears Preston is ready to do his.

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