Position Glance: Wide Receiver
By Greg Hunter
West Virginia football program hopes it’s a matter of matter of quality over quantity when it comes to the receiver position this coming season.
The Mountaineers lost two of their top three pass catchers from last year – Daikiel Shorts (63 receptions for 894 yards) and Shelton Gibson (43 receptions for 951 yards) – to the NFL, and senior Devonte Mathis (four receptions for 57 yards) has also graduated. On top of that, redshirt freshman Steven Smothers, who came to WVU last year as a high rated recruit, is no longer on the team.
West Virginia does have some returning pieces at the receiver position, but it is also going to need some of its newcomers to fill the gaps. Ka’Raun White (48 catches for 583 yards) is nearly 100 percent after missing the last couple of games in 2016 with a broken leg. The senior will lead the unit, but he doesn’t have to do everything himself. Jovon Durante (35 receptions for 331 yards) and Marcus Simms (six catches for 95 yards) are capable deep threats, while Gary Jennings (10 catches for 165 yards) hopefully can step in for Shorts as a sure-handed chain-mover. Ricky Rogers has been with the program longer than any of the receivers (four years) but to this point he has just two receptions to his credit. He hopes his junior season is more productive.
To these five returnees, WVU’s second-year receiver coach Tyron Carrier hopes to find some additional pieces from a group of newcomers.
A couple of those newcomers actually aren’t so new. David Sills, who played bother receiver and quarterback for the Mountaineers in the 2015 season, returned to WVU in January after spending a year in junior college chasing his quarterback dream. But with the realization that receiver is his true calling, the junior is back at West Virginia. He showed great promise this spring catching passes, as he had six receptions for 96 yards in the Gold/Blue Game. The other new/old receiver is William Crest, another former WVU quarterback who announced last winter that he was leaving the program. But the junior-to-be had a change of heart recently and decided to rejoin the team. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Baltimore, who did not participate in spring drills this year, saw action at quarterback, running back, receiver and defensive back in his first three seasons with the Mountaineers, but he appears likely to now settle in at receiver.
Besides Sills and Crest, Carrier’s receiver room also gained a junior college transfer this January in Dominique Maiden, whose 6-foot-5, 203-pound frame will give quarterback Will Grier his biggest target.
In addition, running backs Kennedy McKoy and Tevin Bush are versatile enough that each can split out to the slot receiver position at any time as well.
The only new scholarship receiver who will join the group this summer is Reggie Roberson, a fleet-footed native of Desoto, Texas who WVU’s coaches have said will almost certainly see game action this fall.
“Can you ever have enough depth?” pondered Carrier. “I’m comfortable where we’re at, but I’d always take more. When I was playing (at the University of Houston), we had something like 18 scholarship receivers. Now here we have eight or nine, so it’s a little different. But you can’t play 18 scholarship receivers, so we don’t need that many. You can only play eight or nine. We just need all eight or nine to play well. Our ones and twos are pretty solid, so I’m happy with them. I even think we have a few guys after that who no one has heard of, and they can help us win a game. We also have a guy who can get them the ball (in Grier), and that helps.”
The few guys who no one has heard of are walk-ons. Alejandro Marenco, Druw Bowen, Mitch Chugunov, Jamicah Hopkins and Conner Watts will each try to earn playing time this fall.
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