MORGANTOWN, W.Va.– West Virginia University has been put on the map because of a talented core of wide receivers over the last few years. With camp underway, the unproven group of receivers have a tall task of replacing Kevin White and Mario Alford.
Why should it be a tough task for the Mountaineers?
After all, coach Dana Holgorsen has made a habit of developing a wide range of talented wide receivers, Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey, to name a few.
“There’s a lot of balls in the air, and there are a lot of guys catching,” Holgorsen said. “There are a lot of guys running routes. These guys are exhausted by the end of the day.
“I think we know what we’re doing when it comes to teaching techniques. There’s a confidence level that needs to exist between me, the receivers and the quarterback, and that I have an open line of communication to trust them in what they say and how we can get them the ball.”
Even though WVU doesn’t have a name that may scream “the next big thing”, the Mountaineers have a talented group of receivers that could become a household name.
Seniors Jordan Thompson and KJ Myers, junior Daikiel Shorts, sophomore Ka’Raun White (Kevin White’s brother) and freshman Gary Jennings all have potential to help WVU continue its Air Raid game.
Thompson led the group with 49 receptions for 598 yards and two touchdowns in 2014. Shorts had 24 receptions for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
“It is still too early. (Senior wide receiver) Jordan (Thompson) is going to play, and (junior wide receiver) Daikiel (Shorts Jr.) is going to play,” wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. “Hopefully out of the 12 of them that I have, I can get six to eight guys ready to go.”
“I told them the other day in the meeting that 70 percent of the offense is gone. You have Jordan (Thompson) and Daikiel (Shorts Jr.) who played a lot of the snaps on offense last year, so we are under the radar which is fine by us.”
Shelton Gibson had to fight his way on to the field last season. Now, the sophomore is ready to make his mark and it has been noticeable.
“He’s improved a lot. His routes have gotten a lot better. He’s always been fast, but now he’s able to control his speed, and that’s pretty scary,” Shorts said.
Quarterback Skyler Howard and Gibson have formed a bond that has really helped Gibson’s game.
“I went home with him twice,” Gibson said. “Our timing is perfect.”
“That’s part of the relationship — (Gibson) going home with me and spending a lot of time,” Howard said. “We spend a lot of time together anyways. But I think that translates from off the field to on the field.”
William Crest is another guy who can make a difference for the wide receiving core, but not in the way some may expect. Despite being listed as a quarterback, Crest has been taking reps with the wide receivers and even the running backs.
The speedy Crest has a lot of talent and the coaches are looking for ways to work him in to the offense.
Even newcomers White, Jennings and Jovon Durante have the potential to play a role in the Mountaineers’ offense. Each adds something different than the other.
“Ka’Raun (White) is a good player, and he can run,” Galloway said. “Gary (Jennings) is a big kid that can move around. Jovon (Durante) can fly. It is one of those things that you try to figure out which slot. Do they play over here or do they play over here, and who needs to move where.”
While this group of receivers may not equal that of White and Alford or Austin and Bailey, they should be able to give the Mountaineers enough production to be respected.