Just a year ago, the national media were as high on the West Virginia football receiving corps as they had been in years. With Will Grier slinging the ball and veteran leadership all around, there were very few question marks on the offensive side of the ball. Highlighted by proven seniors David Sills and Gary Jennings, fans had little worry the Mountaineers would be able to put up a lot of points during the 2018 season.
Just a year later, the receiving corps looks drastically different, and has been counted out by nearly all large news outlets. Although the group is much younger, many of the receivers have the tools to be consistent targets, just haven’t gotten the opportunity to prove it behind the incredibly deep receiving room of 2018. In 2019, they will have the opportunity, and today we will focus on the weapons at receiver for the upcoming season.
An obvious leader on the offense, Simmons was very active in his first year as Mountaineer catching 28 balls for 341 yards. While it was already considered that Simmons would be a leader coming into the season, he seems to have earned the trust of head coach Neal Brown, earning a trip to Big 12 Media Day this month. Simmons plays hard, has shown his love for the program, and will be very big in the development of the younger receivers on the team. Simmons will likely be Mr. Reliable for the Mountaineers this season, and the go to for a big first down. A huge junior season, with conference accolades shouldn’t surprise anyone, even in a conference rich with receiving talent.
While being used only sparingly during his freshman season, Bush made the switch from running back to inside receiver during his rising sophomore offseason. Bush proved his ability as a deep threat for the Mountaineers during his sophomore campaign, and caught 14 balls for 209 yards. Despite the low number of receptions, his big play factor that he proved last season was enough to excite the Mountaineer faithful. Bush had a 62 yard catch against K-State, and ran a jet sweep pass from Will Grier for 79 yards against Baylor. With Marcus Simms departure, Bush will look to be a consistent deep threat for the Mountaineers this season.
The freshman from Richmond Hill, Georgia took advantage of the new redshirt rule last season, appearing in four games, with two catches on the season. A former track and field star in high school, James is arguably the most athletic receiver on the roster, and is a likely week one starter against James Madison. With two of the Mountaineers top big play guys graduated and on to the NFL, look for James to be another guy that can step up into that role.
The redshirt freshman from Fuquay Varina, NC is a legacy receiver, with both his grandfather and uncle played for the Mountaineers, as well as his parents attending WVU. In Neal Browns press conference, finalizing the first day of fall camp, he commented on Wheaton, saying he may have had as good a summer as anybody on the team. Wheaton will add good size to a smaller receiving room at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he will be most effective in jump and 50/50 balls, and could be at his best and most dangerous in the red zone, facing off against opposing cornerbacks.
Campbell came out of East Lake High School, in Tarpon Springs, Florida as the #3 wide receiver in the entire 2015 class according to 247sports. Committing to Florida State with some of the highest potential of anybody in the country, Campbell faced numerous injuries over the course of his career, derailing his career in Tallahassee. Looking for a change of scenery to end his college career in the right way, Campbell ended up in Morgantown, and adds tremendous size and experience to the locker room. Although two completely different players with opposite skill sets, his path to Morgantown is faintly similar to the path of Kenny Bigalow, who became a quick fan favorite in his lone season for the Mountaineers. Without a senior in the locker room, Campbell may do just as much as a leader, as he will on the field. Coach Brown has already stated that he likes the energy he brings to the team, comparing him to T.J. Simmons in that regard as two high energy personalities.
A physical, dominant receiver in high school out of St. Frances Academy, Fields was another receiver who redshirted his first season in Morgantown, that will have a chance to contribute in a big way this season. Fields had twenty touchdowns combined in his last two years of high school and played his best on the biggest stage, against #1 Mcdonough catching 13 passes, for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns. Fields has great hands and a long stride, and should be able to make an impact in year two.
Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Ryan was one of the summer additions for the Mountaineers, and although his eligibility is still up in the air, it is only a matter of time before he is making plays in Morgantown. Playing in 11 games for Temple as a freshman before his transfer, Ryan was just one of five true freshmen to see the field for the Owls. He showed his strong athleticism and big play ability catching 12 balls for 162 yards and touchdown. His coaches at temple raved about him during his freshman campaign, and getting eligibility for the upcoming season would be a huge addition for the Mountaineers.
Another speedy freshman, Wright had an incredibly productive career at Memorial Day School in Pooler, Georgia, eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards his senior season. At 5-foot-10, Wright has track like speed, to go along with his crisp route running. Despite only having been on campus for the summer, Wright has already impressed, and has benefited from his “big brother” T.J. Simmons, who along with the other first year players, have assigned older mentors to help them learn the ropes of Mountaineer football.