KENT, Ohio-When Kent State signed Brian Winters out of nearby Hudson High School in the 2009 recruiting
class the Golden Flashes knew the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder had plenty of potential.
But even head coach Doug Martin had to be a little surprised when
Winters not only was selected to play for the United States team that would
participate in the first Junior World Championships in Canton, Ohio that summer,
but also that Winters was among the top players of the team that went on to
win the gold medal.
The experience of being part of a roster that included high school football
players that signed with teams in all the major college football conferences
helped Winters to prepare for his future at Kent State and also gave him plenty
of confidence heading into camp last fall.
"It gave me a pretty good step up," Winters said. "When
I was with the USA team I was dealing with the best athletes in my grade, so
it definitely was a good step up from high school to there and it got me prepared."
Winters went on to start all 12 games at right tackle for Kent State last
fall. Heading into the 2010 season, his sophomore year, Winters has slid over
to left tackle, where he'll have to face faster speed rushers and protect
the blindside of quarterback Spencer Keith.
To prepare for what he'll face during the 2010 season Winters focused
his off-season conditioning on speeding up everything from his decision making
process to his footwork.
"I was just working harder and getting faster," he said. "They
moved me over to the left side so I had to lose a little weight and get a little
faster so I can get with those quicker guys."
During the summer Winters lost about 10-15 pounds from his playing weight
last season and now that practice has started he's able to compete against
one of the top pass rushers in school history.
Senior defensive end Monte Simmons needs just 10 sacks to become
Kent State's all-time leader.
"He really gets me prepared," Winters said. "He's
so fast and I've been dealing with him more. He's definitely going
to get me good for the first game."
Blocking Simmons in practice isn't Winters' only challenge for
the 2010 season. With 12 career starts he's already the third most experienced
offensive linemen on the team. With that experience comes an expectation of
being a leader for some of the younger, or more inexperienced, players.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "I'm
going to take it as it is and work hard and keep going."
Winters said he'll draw on what he learned as a freshman to help him
to his job on the field and off of it.
"I learned that you have to go hard," he said. "You've
got to just keep your nose in it and work hard to get there."
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