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Eliminating the “bad catch” the most important ingredient for WVU’s offense

Last season if one was to watch West Virginia football play, a common theme on the offensive side of the football would be receivers dropping the ball or as offensive coordinator Gerad Parker calls it “a bad catch”.

According to Pro Football Focus, West Virginia receivers dropped 32 passes last season, 10 more than the next closest members of the Big 12 in Oklahoma and Texas Tech who each had 22 drops.

In the Big 12 over the last 15 seasons, the winner of the conference averaged 44.1 points per game, while 13 of the last 15 Big 12 champions finished first or second in the conference in scoring.

With that being said, only once has West Virginia finished in the top two of scoring in the league, finishing second in 2018, averaging 40.3 points per game, still eight points lower than first place Oklahoma (48.4) scored that year.

In the first two seasons under head coach Neal Brown scoring the ball efficiently has been a struggle for West Virginia. In 2019, the Mountaineers averaged 20.6 points per game which was good enough for last place in the Big 12, and in 2020 West Virginia averaged 26.5 points per game, good enough for eighth-best.

For West Virginia, if they can find balance they will be able to score the ball on a more consistent basis, and hopefully be able to then win more games.

Parker knows his wide receivers struggled last season and he has made sure they worked hard this offseason to better prepare themselves for this upcoming year.

“The [receivers] have really put in the work from January until now. They have caught over 110,000 balls,” Parker said. “They have put in a great deal of work that they’ve done and charted on their own in order to get into a position where they have confidence to be able to catch the football consistently. [Drops are] going to happen – how many happen is just all based on our mentality to be able to respond when it does.”

If Parker can get his guys to step up and limit the number of drops, it will lead to more conversions down the field and more opportunities to score the ball which will then in turn also help open the offense up for running back Leddie Brown.

Last season, Brown had a breakout year. In 2019, Brown rushed for 367 yards on 107 rushing attempts. In 2020, Brown nearly tripled his rushing yards with 1,010 while only carrying the ball 199 times.

Having this kind of presence in the backfield will create a focus on Brown for opposing defense’s. Add in Jarret Doege being in his third year in this offensive system as well as having a transformative offseason and West Virginia could be building one of the better offensive attacks in the Big 12.

Coach Brown spoke highly of Doege’s work he put in during the offseason.

“He has changed his body, close to the same weight but the makeup us totally different,” Brown said. “He is down under 10% body fat percentage. When you see him out there in helmets running around for the first time you’re like okay, there’s a significant difference than when we got done with the spring game.”

With your quarterback getting healthier and stronger, your running back returning after a strong 2020 campaign, and your receivers working on the area where they struggled most, this West Virginia offense could find balance which could be the recipe for putting up big offensive numbers and competing for a Big 12 Championship this season.

Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU

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