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by Greg Talkington
(July 7) MORGANTOWN -- Although fall practice doesn't start for about a month, West Virginia senior defensive lineman John Thornton believes the future is now.
"I've been working hard in the weight room, trying to increase my strength and endurance," Thornton said.
"A lot of guys stay here for the summer and work out because they know once practice starts, we won't have that many opportunities to do this."
While spending hours in the weight room several days a week doesn't sound like much fun, Thornton says it's not all bad.
"There isn't a whole lot going on in Morgantown during the summer, so you don't have many distractions," Thornton said. "Sometimes it gets a little boring, but with the season creeping up, it's not hard to stay motivated."
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Philadelphia native is, without a doubt, the leader of the defense. This season will mark his third year as a full-time starter.
Thornton has a no-nonsense approach on the field, punctuated by the fact that he's not afraid to get after teammates for not going all-out.
But he tries a different approach in the weight room.
"I try to keep things loose," said Thornton. "I'm not much for yelling and screaming and being vocal like a Bernard Russ-type. I try to lead by example."
Thornton knows WVU coaches are counting on him for that leadership, especially with a big, strong and agile Ohio State offensive line coming into Mountaineer Field for the season opener Sept. 5.
"We've played some great offensive lines since I've been here," Thornton said.
"Notre Dame had a dominating-type line last year and Virginia Tech always has big, strong pro-type lines, so this won't be anything new for me.
"But some of our younger players like Greg Robinette and Richard Allara haven't really been up against big-time lines, so I've kind of taken it on myself to get them ready and that starts right now."
Thornton won't be intimidated by the Buckeyes.
"I really believe we have the talent to beat them," Thornton said. "I'm glad we're playing them first, because in the past, we've had to wait six or seven games into the season to really find out how good we are.
"This game can't hurt us. Even if we lose, we can still bounce back and win the league and go to an Alliance bowl like Syracuse did last year. But at least we'll know where we stand from the beginning."
n WVU Notes: The new indoor practice facility is nearly complete. Workers are installing turf that would, for the most part, finish the inside. Officials are hoping the facility will be ready for use by July 15.