West Virginia’s Receiving Corps Taking Hits

West Virginia’s Receiving Corps Taking Hits


MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–All of a sudden, that WVU passing game is looking a little bit pale.

I know, all summer it tanned in the hot sunshine that comes with the expectations that were bubbling over due to any number of factors merging at just the right time.

To begin with, the arrival of quarterback Will Grier from Florida, a proven product with a rich history and limitless future, gave them the triggerman they did not have with Skyler Howard, an overachiever who was more heart than arm.

Grier is one fine son of a gun … eh, excuse me. Grier is one fine son of a coach who is well-schooled in the fundamentals, has a high school pedigree that is better than most past WVU quarterbacks, and has five major college starts at Florida without the bitter taste of defeat.

Marcus Simms

What’s more, Grier comes in without the bumps and bruises that would have come with playing last season, it being spent in quarterback purgatory for a misadventure with a performance-enhancing substance — purely accidental. He is rested and eager to get back into the 100-yard wars.

He arrives at a time when the offense gets a boost with the arrival of the new, young and talented coordinator Jake Spavital, who is a Dana Holgorsen protégé sent out on his own to gain experience and now back to put it all together.

It is said to be his offense, and he will be calling the plays, which gives the offense a new look.

Grier comes in and inherits a quarterback’s best friend, a strong running game, possessing a 1,000-yard rusher upon whom he can call on in Justin Crawford, the top returning rusher in the Big 12 Conference.

And no fear of Crawford being overworked or even of injury, for there is much depth in the backfield with Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway returning, each capable of starting elsewhere and in the future at WVU.

“It is unique that you have those guys all the way down capable of playing significant snaps on Saturday,” running backs coach Tony Dews admitted last week. “That has helped us. Maybe it has taken a little of a load off. We have a bunch of guys that are capable of playing so we have to be able to distribute the carries pretty equally among them so far.”

And, as camp started, it appeared that Grier had not only the luxury of depth at running back, but that he similar depth at wide receiver.

However, the football gods have not smiled upon WVU in that area, for all of a sudden, there are a couple of major problems to the two receivers who figured to offer Grier the potential of the home run threat.

It’ll be an ongoing, and untold story, this summer surrounding Jovon Durante, whose absence at camp came with only the explanation that he was missing for personal reasons and that Holgorsen wasn’t sure when or if he would return.

That certainly wasn’t reassuring. That the junior from Miramar High in Florida, which sent Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey to WVU, remains on the roster does offer a glimmer of hope.

Marcus Simms

Then this weekend the true deep threat, Marcus Simms, who was expected to fill the role of Shelton Gibson last year, was reported in the media to have been stopped by police and charged with DUI. Holgorsen subsequently announced that Simms would be suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech, and while the sophomore receiver will continue to practice with the team, he will be reinstated for competition until he fulfills certain requirements.

There are less than three weeks now until the Virginia Tech opener and a shadow now has been cast on the passing game … although it could be a lot worse.

There remains a great deal of depth in the receiving corps. Ka’Raun White, heir apparent to the White family spot in the receiving history at WVU, figures to be the go-to guy and seems perched ready for a breakout season.

With the return of David Sills, not as a quarterback but as a dependable wide receiver, WVU is loaded with big targets while junior Gary Jennings also seems to be maturing into a top option.

These developments, too, could open up a spot for talented freshman Reggie Roberson, who brings speed and rave notices with him, while former quarterback William Crest’s conversion to wide receiver also may be sped up.

And with running back McKoy and tiny Tevin Bush also capable of doing the receiver bit, Grier probably won’t miss a beat … and may not get beat.