Raines Moving Up The Depth Chart For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Kwantel Raines arrived at West Virginia in the summer of 2018, the latest in a seemingly endless line of blue chip recruits produced by Aliquippa (Pa.) High School.
A four-star prospect, the big, athletic safety, who also played quarterback and receiver in high school, had his choice of a who’s who list of suitors, including Florida, LSU, Penn State, Pitt, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and a gaggle of others.
After leading the Quips to a 12-1 record and their 10th straight appearance in a WPIAL championship game, Raines followed the path from Aliquippa to Morgantown previously blazed by the likes of Cedric Thomas, Charles Fisher and Dravon Askew-Henry.
“It’s close, but it’s not too close,” Raines said of WVU, which is about 90 miles south of Aliquippa.
The Quips have produced a number of players who went on to excellent careers at Pitt, like Mike Ditka, Ty Law, Sean Gilbert and Darrell Revis, but it was some of those former Mountaineers who once wore the red and black who helped influence his decision to sign with the Mountaineers.
“I spoke to Dra’ a lot when I was being recruited, so he definitely had an influence on me,” Raines said of Askew-Henry, who is now a rookie defensive back with the Pittsburgh Steelers trying to make that NFL club as an undrafted free agent.
Though he participated in a dozen plays against Baylor last season as a true freshman, Raines still redshirted. Now bigger (6-2, 212 lbs.) and stronger, he’s ready to see considerably more action for the Mountaineers this coming season.
“I can’t wait to play,” he beamed.
“It was hard not playing last year,” the multidisciplinary studies major admitted. “I’m not used to not playing, so when I came in, I was like, ‘Dang, I’m not playing.’ But Coach Mike’s (Joseph) (strength) workouts are for the best, and getting that year under my belt really helped.
“Coach (Tony Gibson) never told me I was going to play when I came in, so I wasn’t really surprised but still everyone wants to play,” Raines said of sitting out most of last season. “They never really told us if we would redshirt; we just sort of figured it out later in the season.”
While Raines, like most true freshmen, was a little bummed he didn’t play extensively his first year in college, he now realizes the benefits of a redshirt season.
“I had to catch on to the game speed,” he noted. “The game speed is so much different than and so much faster than high school. But I’ve adjusted to that. I’m also better in other ways. I know how to break down film, and I’m smarter, faster, stronger, everything.”
Raines and all the Mountaineers are having to adjust to new coaches and a new defensive scheme, as Neal Brown has replaced Dana Holgorsen as WVU’s head coach, and Vic Koenning took over at defensive coordinator, a job previously held by Gibson.
Now playing the spear position, which is part safety and part outside linebacker, Raines’ duties aren’t that much different than the spur safety he manned last year in Gibson’s 3-3-5 odd-stack.
“I’m willing to do anything coach wants me to do,” Raines said. “I trust the coaches. They’ll put me in a position that is best for me.
“They put me in a position where I can be an athlete.”
Raines isn’t likely to start at the spear this year, as senior JoVanni Stewart seemingly has that job locked up. But Kwantel is in a position where he figures to see a lot of action as a backup, as well as getting all the special teams work he can handle.
He believes the defensive unit is coming together nicely.
“I like how we move around and how we communicate,” said the son of Michael Raines. “That part is going well. Everybody is on the same page.”
That movement is a big part of Koenning’s scheme. The defenders are constantly shifting and stemming in an attempt to create confusion for the offense.
“For any offense, the quarterback has reads, so if you can confuse the quarterback, that’s better for defense and helps create turnovers,” Raines explained.
Raines is now at West Virginia, and many of his former Aliquippa teammates are at other schools, including three who are at Pitt – junior offensive lineman Kenny Raines, freshman quarterback Eli Kosanovich and freshman receiver Will Gipson. He keeps in contact with his old friends.
“I still talk to some of the Pitt guys,” he said. “They’re fine with my decision to come to West Virginia. They know I had to do what was best for me.”
They may be friendly rivals now, but Raines certainly knows when the Backyard Brawl will reemerge from its decade-long slumber.
“Redshirt senior year!” the former Western PA star quickly respond when asked if he’ll have a chance to face off against the Panthers.