WVU Spreads The Wealth Among Receivers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You may have noticed as this season has developed and West Virginia has rolled through five opponents to become the last undefeated team in the Big 12 that quarterback Will Grier’s menu of receivers has expanded far beyond where it was last season.
WVU has certain spread the wealth this season in its passing game.
Last year, which was a big first year for Grier before his injury, he threw TDs to only five different receivers.
Through just five games this year he has hit 10 different players with touchdown passes.
What has happened?
It sounds like a simple question but the answer is a bit more complex.
“Last year we had Ka’Ruan (White), Gary (Jennings) and David (Sills) (play) about 95 percent of the time,” coach Dana Holgorsen noted. “(This season) it’s the emergence of Marcus (Simms), it’s T.J. (Simmons) being eligible, it’s backup receivers doing a better job and maturing and playing better, and then it’s getting our running backs involved as well.
“That’s probably the biggest difference (from last season), scheme-wise, is they have to account for those backs.”
It goes beyond that, though. You have Sills and Jennings and Grier all working together in the system for a second year with Grier’s confidence having been won over by Simms and Simmons, to say nothing of the backs and — yes — tight ends.
In fact, in last week’s victory over Kansas Grier threw touchdown passes to four different players and only one of them was a wide receiver, David Sills. Two went to running backs Leddie Brown and Martell Pettaway and another to tight end Jovani Haskins.
And, just so Kansas didn’t feel left out, he also threw three passes to Jayhawks in the end zone … but those were interceptions and you hear no one bragging on them around the Puskar Center this week.
It’s been interesting to see the development of Simms and Simmons, the Alabama transfer, who stepped up big time against KU when Simms slipped after having put together three consecutive 100-yard receiving games.
“T.J. probably played the best out of all of those guys last week. (He) was pretty consistent and made some plays,” Holgorsen said. “Gary and David do things that is just routine at this point and that’s pretty good.
“Marcus had a couple of games where he played pretty good. I don’t think he quite did what we need him to do last week but T.J. has been solid. I’ve been pleased with the backups as well.”
Depth in the receiving corps has lifted a burden off the offense, of Grier and, maybe most of all, off Holgorsen.
“There have been plenty of years when I’ve been sitting here pulling what hair I have left out over (our wide receiver backups),” Holgorsen admitted.
But the likes of Dominque Maiden and Tevin Bush have become touchdown scoring contributors and there is a freshman Sam Jones ready to make an impact now.
And then there’s the tight ends — Trevon Wesco and Jovani Haskins — both now proven as receivers.
“The tight ends take one of those guys off the field a lot, so we don’t have to play four wide receivers all the time. It makes it harder for us to game plan against when all of those guys are capable of making a play,” Holgorsen said.
The variety and versatility makes life far better for Grier.
“I’m very comfortable with all of our guys. I think we have a lot of weapons, and it’s good to be able to spread the ball around. All of these guys can make plays, and it’s my job to make the right reads and get us in good plays and get the ball in their hands,” he said.
“Like I said, I think we’re doing a lot of things well, and we’re close to playing complete games and really ironing all of this stuff out. We’re right there, we just need to make a few more adjustments and continue to get better.”
“You see Will having the comfort to be able to distribute the ball like he is right now,” offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said. “I don’t know how many guys are touching the ball per game, but it’s a good amount. That’s what you want to get to, where when you’re looking at us from a scouting report, there’s a lot of people across the board getting touches.”
And then you have option read routes to wide receivers that have been breaking open and it’s almost as if the defense doesn’t have enough people to cover everyone.