Sam James Growing Into Role As Go-To WVU Receiver

Sam James Growing Into Role As Go-To WVU Receiver


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It comes slowly, this thing called greatness.

You are blessed with superior athletic gifts, but if you don’t pull the ribbon and tear open the wrapping paper you never get to play with them.

Sam James understands this, which is why he doesn’t simply go out on the field as a West Virginia wide receiver and live on his raw talent.

West Virginia wide receiver Sam James dives for the ball on a touchdown reception
West Virginia wide receiver Sam James dives for the ball on a touchdown reception

He won’t let himself fall into that trap and his coach, Neal Brown, won’t either.

“I coach him harder than anyone else on the team because he has a huge ceiling,” Brown said Tuesday as the Mountaineers got down to serious practice for Saturday’s game at Kansas State, where they will look to break a five-game losing streak.

“I coached him that way since I got here. I liked his high school film. I liked the film the G.A.’s made when they scrimmaged last year. I liked the talent you saw in winter and you saw glimpses of what was there. That’s why I coach him like that. You have to coach your best players the hardest.”

That talent has emerged in a season in which WVU is not exceedingly blessed at it’s other offensive positions. This redshirt freshman from the red clay of Georgia caught nine passes for 155 yards and a touchdown against North Carolina State and again last Saturday when he won the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week Award with 14 catches for 223 yards.

And, were it not for four drops and a couple of underthrown balls that could have been touchdowns he well might have had the greatest day any WVU receiver ever had with 18 catches for about 330 yards.

“I get mad if I mess up because I want to be great so bad. I have to learn to tone that down and make it a positive instead of a negative,” James said. “You are fighting yourself and half the time you don’t win.”

This has led him to do has much work, or more, in the film room, in his house or in the office of a sports psychologist who is teaching him ways to improve his mental approach to the game.

And it’s working.

“What I’m most proud of him for is, for the first time in his career he was able to overcome negative plays,” Brown noted. “He was able to overcome a drop. He was able to overcome a bad run. First play of the game we got him the ball and that thing had a chance to get out. We had everybody blocked and he gains two yards.




“He knew as soon as he ran out of bounds it was a bad play,” Brown continued. “In the past, he might have been done for the day, but he came back and we gave him the ball on the next two plays. He made a real nice play on the second play and made an average play on the third, then he really got going.

“Then he had two drops back to back, but then he made a nice play with a huge run after the catch.”

James admits he was as raw as sushi when he showed up at WVU last year.

“You come into college like, you know, teenagers think they know everything. You come into college like you are ‘bad’ and you get out there that first day of practice and your world just crashes because you don’t know anything,” he said.

He accepted that.

“You got to look up to the older guys, to your coaches and ask them how do I do this or how can I get better?” he said.

And so you begin to learn things, how to get off the line of scrimmage, how to get the defenders’ hands off you.

“No one in high school ever put their hands on me,” he said. “So first time it was like, dang. I had to go to my receiver coach and ask him what do I need to do to get better.”

Brown let him know Saturday early against Texas Tech that he would be busy.

“Coach Brown came to me Saturday and told me we were going to have to throw the ball so you need to be open and ready to catch the ball,” he said.

The reason was because it became obvious early that the running game would not be there, which made it necessary to throw and hard to throw because defenders would focus on James.

He can’t wait to have a strong running game to go with the passing game.

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“I feel now once our running game opens up it’s going to be crazy,” he said. “We will be able to use play action and it will be one-on-one on the edge and you got to win those battles,” James said.

Now, if they can just get rid of the drops, although Brown sometimes wonders if they are concentrating too much on negatives.

“You have to be careful with dwelling on the negative,” Brown said. “He’s a kid who is a redshirt freshman, just earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week for the second time, had 14 catches for 223 yards …. that’s a lot to put on a redshirt freshman.

“I hold him accountable, but I’m excited about his future. I’ve defended him, just because of where we’re at as a program I think we have to put a little more on him than he was ready for earlier in the year.

“I think now he’s grown into the role. I think he is our top playmaker on offense at this point. The other players understand we’re trying to get him the ball schematically. You have to hold those guys to a higher standard … and I do.”

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  • #103571

    Sam James Growing Into Role As Go-To WVU Receiver MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It comes slowly, this thing called greatness. You are blessed with superior athl
    [See the full post at: Sam James Growing Into Role As Go-To WVU Receiver]

    #103629

    JAL

    When I first saw James in the opening game I was impressed by his talent.  He has the ability to be one of the great WVU receivers before he is done.

    #103630

    Sam James infuriated the fans near me in Section 105 with the 4 dropped passes, but his upside is incredible.

    Big 12 Newcomer of the Week isn’t exactly chump change either.

    Every college player has pros and cons, good moments and bad moments.

    The key is to reduce the uh-ohs and increase the oh, yeahs!

    #103631

    Sam James in his 2nd-3rd full year will be interesting. He’s got game!

    #103690

    There can be a number of reasons for drops. Nervousness, concentrating on routes, getting used to the speed of the game, better competition, etc.

    I think part of this is that Sam rarely had to make contested catches in HS. He was used to blowing by defenders.

    There’s also the case of which way you are moving when you catch the ball. Some guys catch it ok over the shoulder, some have trouble while running crossing routes or with balls right at their chests. Some guys that are really fast have problems relating to their speed. I remember an anecdote about Cliff Branch running so fast that his eyeballs bounced and affected his focus.

    WVU is doing a number of different things to promote better catching habits for James and his teammates. Many times, these things pay off, so hopefully this will be one of those cases.

    He also needs to work on techniques during route running, like stacking when he gets an advantage.

     

    #103694

    Some of it is getting used to the speed of the ball coming at you.  Way different catching balls from a HS QB than catching them from a RJR P5 QB.   Not that Kendall throws rockets, but the speed is still different.

    On the other hand, it may just be the wrong gloves. 😉

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