Who will emerge as third threat in passing game?
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 00:09
Are you ready for a little trivia? Quick – name West Virginia’s third leading receiver from last season (Hint: the player is back for this season).
If you are having trouble thinking of him, I can’t blame you. After all, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey combined for more receiving yards (2,465) than 38 entire FBS teams last year. It’s kind of hard to not get distracted by that, I know.
So who is the player?
If you guessed Ivan McCartney, you would be right. The Miramar High School product pulled in 49 catches for 585 yards and three touchdowns last season and is back for his junior year.
My point in asking you is to bring up what I think is a very important question for the Mountaineers this year: Who will be the go-to guy after Bailey and Austin?
Everybody knows how potent the pair of returning 1,000-yard receivers is – including Big 12 defensive coordinators. After a stellar 2011 campaign, the highly skilled duo is sure to face increased attention from every opponent the Mountaineers face.
How much is that going to matter?
I still think both will perform like the major stars they are. Both guys are serious talents and won’t have trouble adjusting to the newfound attention. After all, they are playing in head coach Dana Holgorsen’s "Air Raid" offense. That thing is good.
However, the question I posed is attempting to answer to whom senior quarterback Geno Smith can consistently look in the event that Bailey and Austin are blanketed on critical third-downs in close games.
After Saturday, many are saying redshirt senior J.D. Woods is going to be that guy. The Miami, Fla., native recorded seven catches for 75 yards and a score in the victory over Marshall.
Every player and coach I talk to said Woods was one of the hardest workers this offseason, and they aren’t surprised that he is starting the season off in such a productive way.
Others have pegged true freshman Jordan Thompson as the third man in line, hoping his spring game performance will trickle into heavy production this season.
While Thompson only finished Saturday’s game with two catches for six yards, he is still a starter and has been getting first-team repetitions since the beginning of fall camp. He could very well rise up and become the third guy in the Mountaineers’ stacked receiving corps once he adds a few more games of experience.
Then there is McCartney, who seems to have faded from the forefront. After Saturday’s game, Geno Smith was asked about the emergence of players like Woods, Thompson and redshirt freshman K.J. Myers – who recorded his first career touchdown in the win.
After addressing that group, Smith brought up McCartney – his high school teammate.
He mentioned that McCartney has been a little down on himself after not being named a starter and is still recovering from an injury that has been bothering him.
McCartney’s one catch Saturday was a 52-yard bomb that brought back memories of that same connection from last season.
Coach Holgorsen’s offense spreads the ball around like few other teams are able to do in the country. Though it is a given that Austin and Bailey will be playmakers, the question still lingering is this:
Who else will be able to step up and provide consistent production on a weekly basis from the wide receiver position?
The Mountaineers’ lofty aspirations of a conference title – and a return to the BCS – may depend on the answer to that question.