WVU’s Reputation For Developing NFL- Level Talent At Wideout Swayed Choice
By Matt Keller
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Some camp love and West Virginia’s ever-increasing reputation for developing top-shelf receivers was exactly the mix to land wideout Sam James.
James, a 6-1, 170-pound burner from Richmond Hill High in Georgia, had offers from SEC schools in Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina, among others. But after an excellent showing at WVU’s elite level camp this summer, interest between James and WVU quickly ramped up, and the receiver made his choice Friday.
“When I went there to camp, the coaching staff stood out,” James said. “They made me feel loved and showed me love. The offense they run I love. They get the ball to their wide receivers and playmakers on reverses, sweeps, going deep over the top.”
With Kevin White and Tavon Austin both selected in the first round of the NFL Draft within the past five seasons – and the gaudy passing numbers put up by Dana Holgorsen’s offenses – West Virginia’s stature as a breeding ground for skill set players has emerged nationally. The Mountaineers, in fact, rank third in the Big 12 in total alumni playing currently in the NFL. James said that was key in his decision, as was the Big 12’s prestige as a passing conference.
“Really, between the SEC and Big 12, the SEC is more running,” James said. “I didn’t want to be in an offense that was a running team. I wanted to be in one where I could make plays, and West Virginia is Wide Receiver U.”
That’s showed, as James became the 10th recruit in the 2018 class, and the third pure wide receiver along with Bryce Wheaton and Ralph Davis III. The Mountaineers also have two other commits in T.J. Ivy and Mike O’Laughlin who are combo WR/TEs.
“I talked with Bryce Wheaton some, just about what we liked about West Virginia,” James said.
Also offered by Power Five programs like Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, James caught 42 passes for 917 yards and eight touchdowns last season as a junior while showcasing the extra gear coaches love. A straight-line speedster, James has burst and ability to run past defenders, opening the vertical passing attack. He lined up outside and in the slot for Richmond Hill, and showed the ability to run the ball on quick screens and sweeps, as well as find openings on slants and drags across the back of the defense.
That made him a prime target for West Virginia, and the relationship was cemented as position coach Tyron Carrier interacted with James at camp.
“I have a really good relationship with the coaches,” James said. “When I went to camp, they were joking around. (Carrier) showed me a couple moves, stacking the receivers up the line, things like that.”