If that reads a bit confusing, let’s break it down by example, the lead one today played by Lonnie Galloway’s receiving crew. There are currently a lucky number of 13 wideouts listed on the official Mountaineer roster. Of those, Jacky Marcellus is out for the season following knee surgery. That leaves a dozen. Galloway has expressed the desire to have eight receivers ready to play, and with whom West Virginia can win. But that metric seems high; most teams would love to have four all-conference tackles, too. But that simply isn’t likely. So what’s the other number, the “real”one that looms out there as perhaps less than 100 percent ideal, but also about 100 percent accurate? The one with which high level college programs can have consistent success?
“Six,” Galloway said. “Well, I mean, you could get away with less. My first year here, I played three or four. But you need to have a solid two deep, and sometimes we have four wideouts out there, and we ned to be able to add three more to those.”
So that’s seven. Or six. Or, if there are no injuries, four to five. It’s all scaled based upon an ideal that goes something like this: I’d take nirvana, but if I can’t get that, then the next step down, and repeat. Which is perfectly understandable. Football nirvana, by most, remains unreachable. Has Galloway ever looked at any team and thought they had eight legit receivers, ones capable of winning major conference games? Even national champions that run a spread, like Auburn?
“No, not really,” Galloway said. “A good number to have is really six. That way, if something happens, you still can feel comfortable. That’s the whole thing, just (quarterback Clint Trickett) being confident in somebody. If somebody has to take a blow, you put someone in and can still play at a high level.”
West Virginia believes it has a solid start in Kevin White, Daikiel Shorts, Jordan Thompson and Mario Alford. That’s at least two slots and perhaps two outside receivers, pending how Alford lines up if you’re keeping track. That means the Mountaineers need at least a couple more outside threats to compliment White, and another slot or two.
“The first three starters from last year, Mario, Daikiel and Kevin, there are things to where they were all there last year. It’s different,” Galloway said. “It’s a different feel in the way they are carrying themselves right now, and it’s a good feel.”
The slot position has several candidates, not all listed as receivers. Back Wendell Smallwood figures to see significant time there, and fellow position players Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie have repped there as well. Galloway said Vernon Davis could crack into the two-deep, and the staff has paired him with Logan Moore and Shorts on the second team recently; Shorts dropped down to the second unit when there were just three wideouts in a formation. Devonte Mathis, K.J. Myers and Ricky Rogers seem to be on the next level, with Shelton Gibson, Lamar Parker, Chris Parry and Chai Smith providing added numbers. Galloway said the depth chart is ever changing, and that where certain players are currently positioned bears no semblance on what the line-up could look like in three weeks when the Mountaineers open against No. 2 Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
Galloway, still Western Carolina’s all-time leader in total offense after passing for 5,545 yards in his career, said he had “three good ones, and probably four or five (receivers). Our third team wideout was the one that played in the league. David Patten, couldn’t beat out the first two guys up, but he has three Super Bowl rings (with New England). You never know.”
Galloway said the biggest challenge, besides sorting quality depth, is the deep ball. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson was quoted last week as saying the Mountaineers “hadn’t committed to it” enough, and later clarified he meant they had to fine tune the approach. Dawson said the Mountaineers would like to be able to attack deep, as that opens other areas of a defense as it’s stretched, but that there must be a symbiotic relationship that develops between the starting quarterback and the rotation of wideouts. It’s timing, ability to read body language and understand one another, and the ability to read a defense and agree on the same ideal in how to proceed. It is, more than anything, the one aspect that develops in simply playing together for extended periods.
Geno Smith had it at West Virginia with Stedman Bailey, that penchant for knowing just where to place the ball to give the wideout the space needed to make the play. Bailey understood when and where Smith would throw a rope, or simply give the pass some touch. All those are things currently in varying development stages between Trickett and White, Alford, Shorts, Thompson and others.
“Running a vertical route, the percentage of hitting it all the time is about 33 percent,” Galloway said. “But there’s technique and being on the same page with the quarterback. Are they going to feel comfortable, and can you run the routes to give the quarterback some room to throw the ball in there? We have been working on it, hard, and we have hit some. And the way the guys are carrying themselves now, they are attacking it and practicing because they want the ball downfield. They want to have Clint and them understanding what to do and how to do it and have him controlling everybody. It’s good to see.”