Winston Wright has always been on head coach Neal Brown’s radar. Going back to his days at Troy, Wright always stood out to Brown. Now that Wright is beginning to develop physically as well as learn more about his role within the offense, more performances similar to his performance on Saturday are ahead.
“I first saw Winston when I was still at Troy as head coach. He was at a camp at Mercer, and he ran really fast ran in the low four-fours there,” Brown said. “And so, we really, had been tracking him since. And then when I got this job and he’d already signed I was excited because we recruited him pretty hard at Troy, we thought we had a chance and then he got a couple of Power Five offers, late summer, middle of the fall there, and he’s really progressed nicely.”
Despite West Virginia’s lackluster performance offensively against Maryland on Saturday, one could see Wright’s progression and how he has turned into a good teammate and a dynamic player. Despite muffing a punt return, Wright was able to weather the storm and finish with a school record 217 kickoff return yards and six catches for 42 yards.
On Saturday, the West Virginia offense needed a boost, and Wright came through at a pivotal time. With quarterback Jarett Doege struggling, and the momentum being with Maryland, West Virginia needed a spark.
That spark came in the first quarter. With West Virginia being down 17-7, Wright returned the kickoff 98 yards to Maryland’s two yard-line. On the next play, Leddie Brown rushed for a touchdown to put West Virginia back in the game, and help swing the momentum of the game.
Wright followed that kickoff return with another kickoff return of 48 yards in the fourth quarter and it would have been a touchdown if he had not just barely stepped out of bounds.
Wright said, “on the two kickoff returns I just did what I was coached to do all week and what we practiced.”
Earlier in the game, Wright muffed a punt, leading to Maryland having the ball in West Virginia’s half of the field. Wright immediately knew he made a mistake and then did everything he could to help his teammates.
“On the punt muff I just tried to make a move before I got the ball. A little mistake turned into a turnover,” Wright said. “When I had the turnover, I was on the sideline cheering the defense on so when they made the stop that was big.”
Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker was proud of Wright’s performance and how he handled playing receiver and returning kicks.
“He had a special day,” Parker said. “They did a great job with the scheme; he did a great job on kickoff returns.”
Going forward, Parker knows it is vital to the Mountaineers success if Wright can cut down on the little mistakes and then he can piece together a record setting day on kickoff returns and at receiver.
“We expect him to be great, and he is great,” Parker said. And we are going to expect him to be great on KOR and at wideout. He knows there are about five or six moments offensively that he knows are easy fixes for him and he’ll get them fixed that will allow him to have big days in both phases.”
Wright will continue to try and fine tune his game, as West Virginia could use a special team’s performance like he had against Maryland every week.
Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU