Search For Receiver Depth Continues At West Virginia

Search For Receiver Depth Continues At West Virginia

Part of Dana Holgorsen’s weekly press conference this week:

Q: Have you noticed any of the backup receivers step up at all?

A: No.

And that was that.

Or was it?

When a coach answers like that — succinctly with one pointed word — it’s an answer not for the questioner but for the player/players involved, a message he wants to get across.

Assume he’s been more vocal getting it across in practice.

Receiver once seemed to be a deep spot for the Mountaineers, even if they did lose Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts to the NFL this year.

But fate has a way of keeping a coach from feeling too good about anything and before you knew it Jovon Durante didn’t report to camp and transferred and Marcus Simms was suspended for at least — and “at least” is probably an important term — the Virginia Tech game.

Those were deep threat Nos. 1 and 2 … and sent the coaches scrambling for help.

The starting group is fine.

“Our starters have been starters from Day 1,” Holgorsen explained. “When it comes to (junior wide receiver) David Sills, (junior wide receiver) Gary Jennings and (redshirt senior wide receiver) Ka’Raun White, those guys have been starting and those guys do everything right and I’m excited about what years that they’re going to have.”

White, whose brother, Kevin, was the No. 7 pick in the first round of the NFL draft three years ago, if you believe bloodlines, is the best of the group and looking for a huge season on the outside, while Jennings and Sills both have been moved to the inside.

“David started against Arizona State at outside receiver and Gary played outside receiver all of last year. We didn’t move him inside until the spring, I guess,” Holgorsen said.

“So, those guys are tough, they’re smart, they’re competitive, and it means a lot to them. They practice hard, they play hard, and they’ve developed. They’ve earned the right to be our starters and I’m expecting big years of those guys.”

But the backups?

“Typically, you play more than three,” Holgorsen said. “We have bodies. I’m not going over to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson saying I need to borrow three corners and a safety to move them. We have bodies; we’re a little low on scholarships there, I realize that, but we still have guys on scholarship that need to earn it and get out there and play hard and practice hard and improve.”

One development that was already in progress is merging running back Kennedy McKoy, a soft-handed receiver who showed pass catching ability from the start, in with the slot receivers.

“He’s been our best H (slot) since last spring. He has shown versatility to be able to do things in the backfield, much like we did with Wendell (Smallwood) a couple of years ago before he was the main guy at running back,” Holgorsen said.

“Right now, Kennedy is capable of being the main guy but (senior running back Justin) Crawford is pretty good. So, we’ll use McKoy in a lot of different ways, which he did in the spring. In my opinion, he’s one of our top four guys right now.”

It isn’t only the coaches who have been impressed with McKoy’s receiving ability. The other receivers have, too.

“He’s just a great overall athlete. He’s been like that since he got here,” Sills said. “He’s able to run routes, has great hands. Once he gets the ball in his hands he’s very good at manipulating defenders and making them think he’s going the other way.”

While Holgorsen hasn’t seen much development in the young backups, their position coach, Tyron Carrier, has.

You ask him who has stepped up in the last couple of weeks and he has a little bit different answer than Holgorsen had for you that includes redshirt freshman Druw Bowen, junior Dominique Maiden, junior Ricky Rogers, freshman Reggie Roberson Jr. and senior Alejandro Marenco III.

“We have some really good backups,” is the way he put it.

Maranco may be the most interesting, considering he was just placed on scholarship. He is a 5-foot-9 receiver out of Houston who has already played at Fullerton College and the same Riverside City College in California, which sent Skyler Howard to WVU.

Holgorsen is reluctant to talk about him, which is a good thing, saying only:

“He’s never suited up, so I’m not going to talk about guys that haven’t suited up. He has a really high GPA and he’s a really good kid and he works hard. That’s about where he’s at.”

But events have opened the door for freshman to get a chance.

“Some of these young kids, you just don’t know where they are going to be. We will put them in there and let them play. If they are doing it, we have our packages. If not, we can always go a different direction with it,” Spavital said.

“That’s why the first game there’s always so many ups and downs and different directions it can take, but we have different ways to approach it. Once you get to the second game it’s easier because you know so much more.”