WVU’s Depth Scarcity At Receiver Now Same As It Was In Fall Camp
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There seems to be an ongoing fascination with West Virginia’s lack of receiver depth.
It keeps getting drudged up, but always seems to settle back like sands and silt. Here’s a secret: The issue isn’t going away this season. West Virginia has four receivers it’s comfortable playing in Gary Jennings, David Sills, Marcus Simms and Ka’Raun White. It has a fifth in true freshman Reggie Roberson who will play a handful of snaps a game.
Barring injury, it’s unlikely any other wideouts see extensive time the remainder of the regular season. There are two hang-ups with this. First, the injury issue with painfully little insurance. The second aspect is fatigue.
“When we get deep into these games, then guys get tired,” receivers coach Tyron Carrier said. “We need the younger guys to start stepping up and show us who they are. I’ve got some pretty good receivers out there. The main thing is that it’s kind of hard to take them off at times. They’re such competitors. It’s my job to keep them under control and keep their reps down a little bit, but those guys don’t want to miss a play. It’s hard because those guys deserve to be out there.”
But as the snap counts continue to rise – and it appears they will in facing foes like Oklahoma State who run nearly point-a-minute offenses – one must also factor in that the receivers are also on some special teams units.
“We have to find some more depth because Ka’Raun, David and Gary are playing 90 snaps a game including special teams,” Spavital said. “They are great kids, but throughout the course of a long season that can wear down athletes. We are monitoring them and making sure we cut down reps in practice.”
As head coach Dana Holgorsen noted, this been an ongoing issue since the opening of fall camp. It takes time and reps to develop players, and at the stage the likes of Dominique Maiden and Alejandro Marenco aren’t ready while Ricky Rogers and William Crest never quite developed to the level where they could contribute consistently.
“Can we go back to what I said August 1? How many more times do I have to continue to complain about it?,” Holgorsen said. “Depth is still an issue. It’s an issue at receiver. It’s an issue at o-line. It was addressed after the game. It needs to happen now. It needed to happen two months ago, so we are going to focus on a lot of those second team guys. Whatever is preventing them from helping us win, we are addressing it now.”
Holgorsen also mentioned the lack of contributions from the reserve running backs against the likes of TCU. While Justin Crawford rushed 19 times for 111 yards, Kennedy McKoy carried seven times for just 12 yards, while Martell Pettaway had five runs for 10 yards. That’s an average of two yards or less per carry, with a long run of five yards – not the production the Mountaineers need in backing Crawford. That was remedied a bit versus Texas Tech, when McKoy was able to finish of the final drive with some needed work.
Holgorsen said he believes WVU has “some good backs that for whatever reason aren’t doing what we need them to do.” Spavital did explain the absence of McKoy – considering among the most versatile skill players and an excellent fit at slot receiver – from the passing game.
“We felt we needed to get our best receivers in the game when we went 10 personnel and when we got into passing downs,” said Spavital, explaining WVU’s common one-back, four-receiver alignment. “Kennedy is an exceptional guy, but he is not in that receiver room the entire time. In a game like that, your technique and fundamentals are key to getting open. Let Kennedy spell Crawford because we knew he would get tired and wear down because we were going to give him a lot of touches.”