The Gold-Blue spring game is always a great opportunity for the West Virginia football team to showcase the progress its made during the spring practice session, and this year, the Mountaineers showcased their talents in the receiving corps.
“We wanted to have fun, and we wanted our players to really enjoy the opportunity to compete in front of fans,” head coach Neal Brown said following the game. “We want to play clean football, and I hope a defining characteristic of our program is that we don’t beat ourselves.”
However, unlike in the past, this spring game had question marks surrounding many players and the team overall with a busy offseason in Morgantown. With the departure of many key players on the defensive side of the ball and co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae, the defense is an unknown.
The offensive unit will also be looking to make a major step forward in 2021 after it was a limiting factor in West Virginia’s success down the stretch of last season. One facet of the offense that is needing improvement is the receiving corps.
That unit was impressive on Saturday as one receiver showed his ability to carry the load as one of quarterback Jarret Doege’s primary targets.
Junior wide receiver Winston Wright Jr. was the main target for Doege on the Blue squad as he tallied four catches for 43 yards. Wright is coming off a 2020 season in which he established himself as Doege’s prime target with 47 receptions for 553 yards and two touchdowns.
“Last year, my coaches put a little bit more on me, and that helped me in my confidence,” Wright said. “This year, it’s time for me to lead now and I feel like I’m ready for it. We have a unique group and it’s really just about speaking up and showing your work to lead.”
Overall, the receivers on both teams were impressive with freshman wide receiver Kaden Prather finishing with two catches for 69 yards. Prather had the longest reception of the day from redshirt quarterback Garrett Greene for 51 yards.
Some more targets that are expected to receive more play in the fall will be wide receivers Sam Brown and Reese Smith. Both targets saw limited time on the field in 2020, with Brown totaling eight catches for 92 yards and Smith finishing with 11 catches for 128 yards.
Wright said youth is one of the positives for the West Virginia offense, and he thinks the team is comfortable with its potential.
“I feel like the ceiling is very high for us,” Wright said. “We are very young, and the offense has been under coach (Neal) Brown for two years. So, all of us are very comfortable that we can take that next step and be way more successful than last year.
Wright took a significant leap forward in 2020 in playing time and he said that he learned a lot of different aspects of the game through playing time.
“I played a lot last year so, I took it in and I was very thankful for playing that many snaps last year,” Wright said. “So, last year I just learned there always something you can do to get better. It might be in the route game or the blocking game, it’s just something that you can do to get better.”