MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– The West Virginia University football team lost two of its best wide receivers in Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts, but the Mountaineers aren’t scavenging for talent at the position.
Both Gibson (43 receptions for 951 yards) and Shorts (63 receptions for 894 yards) moved on to the NFL after being WVU’s go-to guys last season. Devonte Mathis graduated and redshirt freshman Steven Smothers left the team, leaving an opportunity for others to shine.
Ka’Raun White is the most experienced of the receiving corps. He played in 11 games last season before suffering a season-ending broken leg against Iowa State.
The redshirt senior finished second on the team with 48 catches for 583 yards, five touchdowns and a long reception of 53 yards.
As a sophomore, White played in nine games and finished the season with 15 catches for 275 yards. In the Mountaineers’ Cactus Bowl victory against Arizona State, he had a breakout game with four catches for 116 yards.
The Macungie, Pa., native will lead the receivers but should have plenty of help from his teammates.
Jovon Durante was fourth on the team last season in receptions (35) and yards (331). The Miami native is a capable deep threat. He had a season-long catch of 51 yards against Texas Tech and a 36-yard catch against Texas.
Gary Jennings is the man that could take over in the slot for Shorts.
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound junior came on strong at the end of last season. Against Baylor, he had a season-best three catches for a career-high 69 yards with a touchdown. Jennings earned his first career start against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
The Stafford, Va., native finished the 2016 season with 10 catches for 165 yards, two touchdowns and a long of 58 yards.
Ricky Rogers has been around for four years but has yet to make an impact. The redshirt junior has just two career receptions. However, Rogers had a 60-yard catch in the spring game and hopes to contribute more this season.
Marcus Simms is another deep threat. As a sophomore, he saw action in nine games and had six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Two newcomers that aren’t so new and could make an immediate impact for WVU are David Sills and William Crest. Both Sills and Crest were former quarterbacks, who changed to wide outs after leaving the team and returning.
During the Mountaineers’ Cactus Bowl victory, Sills had a breakout game and caught the game-winning touchdown on a 15-yard reception with 2:19 remaining. He finished the season with seven catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.
Despite showing potential at receiver, Sills elected to transfer to El Camino College to pursue a career at quarterback. After one season there, he realized where he belonged and returned to WVU.
Upon his return, the 6-foot-3, 201-pound junior instantly connected with starting quarterback Will Grier. During the spring game, fans got a glimpse of how well the two meshed. Sills had six catches for 96 yards with a long pass of 34 yards.
Like Sills, Crest left the team in the winter but soon realized Morgantown was were he belonged and returned as a receiver.
During his tenure with the Mountaineers, the 6-foot-2, 210-junior has seen the field at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
Another newcomer expected to make an immediate impact is Dominique Maiden. Often last season WVU’s lack of height hurt the Mountaineers’ chances of scoring in the red zone. But Maiden’s 6-foot-5, 203-pound frame gives Grier that big target.
The junior wide out spent two years playing at Riverside City College, where he finished the 2016 campaign with 36 receptions for 480 yards and eight touchdowns.So far Maiden is already catching attention from his coaches and teammates.
Newcomer Reggie Roberson displays signs of brilliance, too. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound freshman is expected to see the field plenty in his first season in gold and blue. As a senior at John Horn High in Desoto, Texas, Roberson caught 60 passes for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. Also, he averaged 800 more return yards. He was the No. 82 ranked wide receiver in the country.
Walk-ons Alejandro Marenco, Druw Bowen, Mitch Chugunov, Jamicah Hopkins and Conner Watt are hoping to find a way to contribute this season. Marenco had two catches for 10 yards in the spring game.
Heading into camp, WVU is very optimistic in this group of receivers.
(Feature Photo Credit: Jeff Ruff/BGS)