Not Just 'Next Man Up' for WVU Receivers

The easy storyline with West Virginia's wide receivers during the spring and fall is finding replacements for Kevin White and Mario Alford. However, there's much more to building a receiving corps than simply plugging in new players. Assistant coach Lonnie Galloway shares some of the things he's looking for as veterans and relative newcomers compete for playing time in 2015.

One of the first things Galloway discusses in rebuilding the pass-catching component of the WVU offense is dispelling a sense of entitlement. That's not to say such an air exists on the current Mountaineer roster, but he cautions against assuming that the most familiar names, or those that held backup roles a year ago, are automatic first teamers during the spring. Obviously, some of the returnees, such as Jordan Thompson and Daikiel Shorts, will be with the “first groups” during some spring sessions, but Galloway notes that roles and teams will be shuffled daily. Returnees such as Shelton Gibson, Devonte Mathis and Vernon Davis are also familiar names, but each must seize the opportunity, and not just assume that jobs will fall to them because they are “next up”.

“All those guys have been here. It's your turn, but that doesn't mean anything if you don't take advantage of it,” Galloway said, hoping that the message filters down to his players. “Vernon and Shelton I would say [would be in the first group] but it doesn't matter. It does not matter. It could be Mathis and Rogers one day. It would be Squirt (Thompson) and Daikiel [on the inside] as the first two guys. If we were playing now those are two guys that I would definitely say would be starting. The rest of them? Don't know.”

With at least some proven production at the inside receiving positions (where Thompson and Shorts reside), Galloway at least has a foundation in place. Outside? It's a mix of potential – a few flashes of production from 2014 and a group of players who appear to have the physical skill to compete – but little in the way of consistent production.

Galloway, true to form, doesn't offer much in the way or predicting who might emerge on the outside. With a blunt “I do not know”, he sums up the picture of the wideouts as spring drills head into full contact sessions in pads.

“I hope we can make some plays this spring and some guys can separate themselves, and then once the new guys come in throw them in the mix."
--Lonnie Galloway

“I've seen Vernon and Mathis enough to know they have some tools to work with, but they have to show them. They have 15 days of practice to do that and to get better. Ricky Rogers is a bigger kid, a taller kid, who can run, but he was on the scout team all year. Shelton is a tough kid. He just has to clean up stuff. He's fast and plays hard. He can run. He just needs to learn how to control his speed. Vernon's thing is working out, gaining weight getting stronger and pushing himself. He has to get stronger.”

That last is a key for anyone hoping to play on the outside, where White and Alford starred for the Mountaineers in 2014.

“Especially for the single guy on the outside, you have to have physical strength and speed. You have to be able to block,” Galloway said, listing the attributes the receivers near the boundaries must possess. “You can get defended differently on the outside. On the inside you have some more room to work with. It's hard to press (cover) you on the inside. We are looking for tough guys on the outside that can win the one-on-one.”

While height would also seem to be a major factor for the outside receivers, Galloway discounts that notion.

“Mario was 5-8,” he observed, having to go back just one season to find a shorter player that shatters the height myth. “Being able to hold your spot when running the vertical route and stacking the guy, those things are important.

"In college the [defensive backs] can mess with you all the way down the field. Being able to trust your technique and get even with them and fight to hold your ground is key. The defensive back is trying to push you closer to the sideline to make it tougher on the quarterback. So you have to squeeze that DB and then stack him. Kevin and Mario got good at it. You have to be able to move them and get on top of them, and that takes strength.”

While fans and many media tend to equate name familiarity with potential to play (“Hey, we've heard Gibson's name for two years, so he must be good”), Galloway does not. He emphasizes the need to work, and notes that the spring is just the beginning of competition.

“I hope it's all thrown open again,” he answered in response to a question about solidifying a depth chart coming out of spring practice. “I hope we can make some plays this spring and some guys can separate themselves, and then once the new guys come in throw them in the mix. If it's a combination of guys that we need to use to get the job done then that's what we'll go with.”

BlueGoldNews Top Stories