Season Of Change

Mario Alford and Devonte Mathis believed they were ready to make significant impacts going into last season. But football at the major collegiate level has a way of humbling even the best of talents.

Coming off an excellent year at the junior college level, Alford expected his game would better mesh with an elite level. But the rigors of learning a new offense, facing exceptional athletes and adapting to a faster pace of play limited his output until about the midway point of the season. The game, physically and mentally, didn't truly begin to click for Alford until the latter portions as the junior, a transfer from Georgia Military, played in all 12 games, but didn't string together consecutive starts until the final four contests.

Still, Alford ranked 17th in the Big 12 in receiving yards, totaling 27 catches for 552 yards and two scores - the biggest of which was his 72-yarder in the fourth quarter against Texas to put the Mountaineers ahead 40-37 with 7:39 left. One game later, Alford almost doubled his productivity, amassing a career-best 215 yards on eight catches against Iowa State; his 76-yard scoring reception was WVU's longest play from scrimmage last year. The 215 yards tied the third-best single-game mark in school history, and set up Alford for an offseason spent focused upon consistency, route running and an increase in speed.

Alford, who is among the primary deep options on kickoff return, details the comfort level of the entire receiving corps, how the production will be increased and why this unit is better overall than it was in 2013.

Mathis, out of Miramar High (Fla), enters his third season at West Virginia. Now at 212 pounds, Mathis said he believes his overall improvements in ability to read defenses and understand schemes should allow him additional playing time. Mathis, who had seven catches for 82 yards last season, is trying to break in at the outside receiver slot, the position most wideouts - Mathis included - note is the easiest due to less blocking and fewer routes.

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