Mountaineers feature plenty of depth at receiver
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 00:08
Though much of the attention West Virginia’s offense has gotten this offseason has been directed toward senior quarterback and Big 12 preseason Player of the Year Geno Smith, it’s likely by the end of the year, his receiving corps will be drawing similar praise.
Highly skilled and returning plenty of veteran hands, the 2012-13 edition of the Mountaineers’ offense is equipped with one of the top receiving corps in the Big 12 – if not the country.
Heading into the first week of the season, it seems head coach Dana Holgorsen has already found his top four wideouts, one of which "squirted" his way into fans’ hearts at the Gold-Blue spring game.
Being an early enrollee has helped true freshman Jordan Thompson hit Holgorsen’s radar and allowed him to stand out as a viable starter for the upcoming season.
"Jordan Thompson is ahead of some of the receivers because he was here (in the spring)," Holgorsen said. "That guy is something. Obviously he is a true freshman that will play."
A trio of returning players – including a pair of 1,000-yard receivers – will help West Virginia spread the field and attack at a variety of angles. Last week, Holgorsen laid out his vision for the group he feels will be his starting unit.
"At receiver, we feel that (redshirt junior) Stedman (Bailey) is an obvious starter, Jordan Thompson is an obvious starter, (senior) Tavon Austin is an obvious starter and (redshirt senior) J.D. Woods is an obvious starter," he said.
"Then you have backups, and we’ll assess all of the backups to where we can find out how much they can handle playing."
Woods, a highly talented receiver who has played a myriad of roles in past seasons, knows his versatility and confidence have put him into a place where he can ultimately be successful.
"I have to continue to make plays; my confidence is pretty high," he said. "I never put my head down last year, and I believed in my heart that everything was going to be okay. Knowing more than one position has opened up my chance to play. I am comfortable wherever they put me."
Austin and Bailey, the two leaders of the Mountaineers’ receiving corps, will look to replicate their shared success last season when they played a big part in helping Smith set the Big East record for most passing yards in a single season.
Austin has been impressed with the incoming group of freshmen and has played a large role in mentoring them during the transition from the high school game to the college level.
"They come in, and they work hard and they listen for the most part," he said. "They are doing what the coaches ask them to do.
"One thing that I ask from them right now is probably that they need to pick up their blocking a little bit. For myself, too, that is one thing that I see right now that I see they are kind of lacking in," Austin said.
Along with Thompson, Austin has taken a particular interest in two other freshmen receivers who may see playing time during the season.
"(Travares) Copeland has been doing really good in the slot receiver position; Devonte Robinson and Copeland are catching my eyes," he said.
Copeland, a three-star prospect, was a first-team all-area quarterback at Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Robinson, also a three-star prospect, averaged more than 30 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns for Palm Beach County High School in Delray Beach, Fla.
True freshman Devonte Mathis was perhaps the most heralded of the incoming recruits at wide receiver and should acquaint himself with Mountaineer fans, as well. Mathis hails from Miramar High School – the prolific recruiting pipeline that produced Geno Smith and Steadman Bailey, among others.
Redshirt freshman K.J. Myers will also enter the fold and see the field this season. Myers boasts a physical 6-foot-2, 197-pound frame that could see some serious action in the red zone.
With so many players to choose from, wide receivers’ coach Shannon Dawson will have the difficult choice of narrowing down who to redshirt and who to play this season.
"Now is about the time where you start to make some decisions on who is going to be where and who is going to redshirt," he said. "I have confidence in my whole group.
"There isn’t one guy that has gone out there and just failed. There are probably three that are consistently on the same page with our quarterbacks, and they are the guys that played a lot last year."