Mountaineer fans may have only caught a glimpse of senior wide out Mario Alford last season since he only started in five games, but Alford is poised to open the eyes of the West Virginia faithful in the 2014 campaign.
Alford transferred from Georgia Military College where he led the team in rushing and touchdowns. When he arrived in Morgantown, he sat behind wide receiver Ronald Carswell until he was dismissed from the team. With Carswell out of the picture, Alford was able to see more playing time and started to gain the trust of head coach Dana Holgorsen.
In 12 games last season, Alford racked up 27 catches for 552 yards and two touchdowns. His play impressed the coaching staff so much he started the final four games for the Mountaineers.
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson originally put Alford in the slot to replace Tavon Austin. It did not take long for Dawson to figure out that Alford was built to play outside receiver due to his incredible speed.
Alford may be West Virginia’s best kept secret. He ranked No. 17 in the Big 12 for receiving yards and No. 16 in receiving yards per game. These numbers are expected to rise, as Alford will now have two years of experience in the Holgorsen system.
If West Virginia is going to get back on track, its veteran wide out corps must lead the way. Alford is part of a receiving group that returns Kevin White, Daikiel Shorts, Jordan Thompson and KJ Meyers. The mix of leadership and experience could be what propels the West Virginia offense. In the pass-happy Big 12 Conference, this group could be the most dangerous corps in the entire league.
“I love it this year because we’ve got everyone coming back from last year, my first year it was a whole new group of guys in the receiver corps,” Alford said in an interview with WVUsports.com. “We know the playbook like the back of our hands now.”
Who will throw the ball to them is still an open question. Clint Trickett is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and has not been cleared for spring practices yet. For now, the starting reps have been handed to Paul Millard and junior college transfer Skyler Howard.
Mountaineer fans will be able to get a look at Alford and the rest of his teammates on April 12 for the annual Gold-Blue Spring game at 1 p.m.