West Virginia Blending Wide Range Of Skillsets In Its Receiving Corps
By Matt Keller
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Gary Jennings sees West Virginia’s wide receiving corps as one with a ton of potential – but one that also must prove itself.
Jennings listed several possible breakout players for the coming season, including Dominique Maiden, Reggie Roberson and Marcus Simms. The three add multiple skillset complements to the likes of Jennings, a sure-handed wideout and punt returner who tallied 10 receptions for 165 yards and two scores a season ago.
Factor in Ka’Raun White – and his 48 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns – and that the Mountaineers again secured the services of David Sills after a stint trying his hand at quarterback at El Camino College in Calif, and WVU has the breadth of ability to provide plenty of targets for new quarterback Will Grier. The question, then, isn’t one of if as much as whom. Can Jennings better his stats, and can White at least duplicate his?
Will Jovon Durante bounce back as a big play threat to replace Shelton Gibson after a mild sophomore slump which saw his yardage production fall from 378 yards to 331 despite 11 more catches. That’s a difference of more than six yards per grab, which translated in Durante being far more of a true mid-range threat than the vertical one he was in his first year.
And what of Maiden and his 6-5, 203-pound frame? Simms’ burst and increased playing time as his freshman season wore on last year, including a career-best 80 plays in the regular season finale versus Baylor? Or the fact that the coach staff raves about Roberson, who is the most likely to see significant action as true freshman? Even William Crest is back at receiver after flirting with a transfer option during the spring.
“Dominique Maiden, and Reggie Roberson, those guys are definitely stepping up, but as a group as a whole we’re all starting to gel and mesh together which I feel is very good,” Jennings said. “Marcus Simms, he’s a different player as well with what he can bring to the table. He does the right things.”
Jennings noted that the wideouts routinely run patterns and work on timing and other aspects with Grier, who showed flashes of his excellence displayed as a freshman at Florida in the Gold-Blue spring game. Grier completed nine of his first 10 throws while also finding Ricky Rogers for a 60-yard catch-and-run in a 202-yard performance.
“He’s great,” Jennings said. “Can’t wait for this upcoming season. (The passes are) on point, a good ball. You have to be ready for certain passes. That’s a part of us just meshing together and making sure were all on the same page all the time. That’s what we have worked on. Every single chance we get we’re working with the quarterbacks and trying to get timing down.”
That’s a key, especially as the Mountaineers, under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, attempt to play at a faster pace. WVU ran 983 snaps a season ago – actually a dozen fewer than its opponents – for an average of 75.6 plays per game. Cal, under Spavital, ran 1,035, and that was over just 12 games as opposed to West Virginia’s 13, translating to an average of more than 86 snaps per contest.
“We can go pretty fast,” Jennings said. “There’s a lot of short game stuff and he uses the passing game as a run game as well. There’s a few things as far as tempo wise, but I guess we’ll see.”