With Burst Back, Ka’Raun White Primed For Major Leadership Role
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ka’Raun White put up solid receiving numbers last season before injuring his leg in the penultimate regular season game against Iowa State.
That ended the then-junior’s season at 48 receptions with 583 yards and five touchdowns. Now, eight months and a fully healed break later, White is nearing 100 percent as the contact portion of fall camp begins.
“I got my burst back for sure.” White said. “I noticed that early summer. It’s just getting confidence back. Everything is good I just gotta make sure I’m here mentally, which I am.”
White anticipates 2017 being a more healthy and productive season while working with new quarterback Will Grier in the first year of coordinator Jake Spavital’s offense.
“Once I was good, we worked mid-summer a lot – like three to four times a week – and during our break we worked a little but too.” White said. “Coach was saying you guys gotta work on communication and connection, because without that, we’re not gonna be successful. Last year our offense was pretty simple. We’re all out there now and we all know what we’re doing, so I just feel like us and Will, we’re on the same page, we know what to do, and it’s just clicking.”
Receivers coach Tyron Carrier noticed the work that the receivers put in this summer.
“I’ve seen initiative with the whole receiving corps,” Carrier said. “Those guys took the initiative this summer. They said ‘we’re not going to go and sit on a beach this summer, we’re going to stay here and we’re going to get better’ and when you get a group of guys that are that focused (it’s easier).
“It wasn’t even just Will Grier and it wasn’t just two receivers, it was about 11 or 12 of them out on the field every single day, running backs and the offensive line, all getting better. When you get that, it is a sign for a lot of success. They stayed, they focused and the chemistry between the receivers and the quarterbacks right now is through the roof.”
Carrier also saw flashes of his receivers being a more physical group. That will be imperative with the loss of Daikiel Shorts, among the most consistently productive and physically tough wideouts who was essentially a safety blanket of sorts for the offense a season ago. Also gone with Shorts is WVU’s top vertical threat in Shelton Gibson. Combined, that accounted for 106 catches for 1,845 yards and 13 scores – or more than 55 percent of West Virginia’s yardage production.
That leaves White as the top returning receiver, and the only one with more than two touchdown catches. It provides a challenge, even with the likes of Jovon Durante and Gary Jennings back, along with the return of David Sills.
“They’re showing it, I’m very excited about this group.” Carrier said. “I have about five or six guys that can play anywhere. As far as physicality goes, they are exceeding it right now. I can’t wait to get pads on and see if they can keep it up. I want to see a winning mind set, route depth, and finishing plays as far as blocking wise. I’m big on blocking so more than anything I want to see route depth, actually knowing what you’re doing, and blocking. “
West Virginia finished 40th in the nation in receiving yards in 2016, and ranked 17th in total offensive overall in averaging 485.5 yards per game.
“I think we’re pretty set, at all positions.” White said. “We’ve got first team, second team, third team guys that can play. We’re looking pretty good, all of us as a whole. We’re out there motivating each other if one of us drops the ball we’re like ‘It’s all right just get to the next play.’ Just telling them what they did wrong while watching from the sidelines.”
Virginia Tech, the Mountaineers’ first opponent this season, ranked 38th in the nation in pass defense last year.