Receivers Show Improvement In Second Scrimmage

West Virginia's first three offenses put up almost 250 yards in passing and receiving during Saturday's scrimmage, and one reason was the improved play of the wide receivers.

Although the Mountaineer tight ends contributed heavily to West Virginia's solid passing totals, the wide receivers also made strides from their shaky performance in the previous scrimmage.

"We threw the ball well, I think Rasheed really threw the ball well, and the first group of receivers caught the ball well," wide receivers coach Steve Bird said.

Walkon wideout Nathan Forse led the group with four receptions, and Miquelle Henderson, Travis Garvin and John Pennington also got on the board with catches. As is usually the case with coaches, however, Bird still sees room for improvement.

"I still see a couple of drops here and there and we've got to eliminate those. We can't relax, and we've got to make the tough catches," Bird analyzed.

"I still don't see anybody diving. Travis made the diving catch down here [near the end zone] but we've got to have more of that. We've got to have people make a play."

'Making a play' or, more correctly, not making enough of them, has been a sore spot for Bird and his charges through WVU's first two seasons. While the Mountaineer receving corps has caught enough passes to be respectable, they haven't turned in many 'wow' plays.

Garvin did that with his leaping grab near the goal line to set up a touchdown, but Bird wants to see more of those before the season begins. He's also looking for more consistency, especially from the player who are fighting for time behind the first group of Henderson, Garvin, Pennington and Dee Alston.

The conditions during the second srimmage were much better than those of a week agao, when a strong wind hampered the passing game. Bird refused to use that as an excuse, however.

"We put too many balls on the ground in the first scrimmage. They've got to do it when everything is going against them. They have to overcome adversity,, and they have to make those plays when things are tough, and that's what I'm looking for right now. I want to see them make a play when the odds are stacked against them."

The other side of the coin at wide receiver is blocking, and in this area Bird also sees improvement from a season ago.

"Especially with the first group, they are getting after it and getting downfield and blocking pretty well. They aren't afraid to mix it up, so we're doing better there. At this time last year we weren't as good blocking as we are right now. I'm pleased with that. It might be one of the first times since I've been here that I can say that after a scrimmage before I've graded film."

Once again, though, Bird thinks that his group of wideouts can be even better in this play phase. He's pleased with the progress so far, but envisions even better blocking from his group.

"I think we can still get better at that. We are better than we were, but I still think we have to raise that another notch or maybe even two notches. You want four of them to go out and do what Phil Braxton did. If we can get four of those, it changes everything in the run and in the pass game. It has improved, but I want more."

Bird has been working with short numbers this spring, as Aaron Neal has yet to take a snap from scrimmage and John Scott has missed several practices. Scott was back in action on Saturday, and Neal took part in drills, but not contact work. It's hoped that Neal will be able to return for this week's practice sessions, which are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.


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