Simmons Continues Impressive Play; Bush To Focus On WR
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Tyron Carrier has a wide arrange of talents and skillsets at the receiver position. Exactly how to hone those abilities is the challenge over the next two weeks.
With West Virginia hitting its seventh practice of the spring on Tuesday, the Mountaineers remain less than halfway through the 15 allotted sessions. What’s become clear to Carrier, WVU’s wideouts coach, is that the mental and physical approach to the game has changed for some of the reserve players. Included in that group are the likes of Reggie Roberson, Dominique Maiden and state native Druw Bowen.
None have contributed more than Roberson’s six catches for 30 yards and one score, and much of the room remains young after the departure of Ka’Raun White’s 26 career starts. That’s why it’s imperative that the group’s collective undertaking is starting to rise to the level Carrier desires.
“What I’ve seen, now, is maturity,” Carrier said. “A lot of those guys, the backup guys, the year twos and under, you’re seeing a lot of productivity out of the Reggie’s, the Dominique Maiden’s, the Druw Bowen’s, the William Crest’s. Also, we have a new addition in Tevin Bush, which is going to be a big change for us. He does things that nobody else in that room can do.”
Bush, a 5-foot-6, 163-pound wide receiver/running back, played in nine games at the latter position a year ago before making the switch to focus more on wideout this season. His elusiveness and ability to cut-and-go gives the Mountaineers a rather unique weapon at the slot position. The New Orleans native carried 20 times last season for 81 yards and made four catches for 15 yards. But all of that came over the first eight games of the year, and Bush failed to play in three of WVU’s final five games.
The sophomore will be counted on more heavily this season in trying to fill some of White’s production, which amounted to 61 catches a season ago for 1,004 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
“He’s really shifty,” Carrier said. “Being inside, people think that because you’re that height, that catching the ball will be a problem. He actually has some of the best hands in the room. He did a little bit of that in high school. Of course, he did a little bit with us last year. Just giving him a full-time role and starting to sit in that room and listen to the lingo a little bit more is going to help him out a lot.”
In a very fluid and largely meaningless depth chart, Bush is listed behind David Sills at the H position. As expected, Gary Jennings is the starter at Y in front of Bowen and Crest, with Marcus Simms at X ahead of Maiden. Though still trying to improve their abilities, Sills and Jennings are rather proven commodities. Sills remains on his climb to a quite high upside, but has various aspects of his game to focus upon after his numbers dropped off toward the end of last season. Jennings, who led the team in receptions with 97 for 1,096 yards, said he likes the collective ability of the group, and how Carrier is getting as many reps as possible to as many players as possible early on in camp.
“In terms of reps it allows for us to be more fresh,” Jennings said. “For us to give more effort on every single play. Coach Carrier has done a good job in terms of getting everyone involved so that everyone stays fresher and everyone knows what they are doing. With the core receivers that we have, they can’t just look at David and I. Marcus, T.J. (Simmons), Reggie or whoever else is outside, those guys can be left open as well. So, I believe it isn’t as easy as covering us.”
Simmons, a transfer from Alabama, is running with the first team at the Z position just ahead of Roberson. The now-redshirt sophomore drew rave reviews from Dana Holgorsen last year at this time, the head coach mentioning that he would have play immediately in 2017 were he eligible after transferring. At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, Simmons has the size, speed, hands and change of direction to make a sizable impact.
He broke into the wideout rotation as a true freshman with the Crimson Tide in 2015, and played in 12 games while being used mostly on special teams.
“T.J. is T.J. He’s my new energy in the room,” Carrier said. “He’s talkative, he’s strong, he’s physical. He understands the game and when we’re in meetings, everything I say to him, I could open up his notebook and it’s verbatim, exactly what I critiqued him on. It’s more of a professional guy in the room with T.J.”