Quarterback Skyler Howard spoke highly of the work his offensive line and wide receivers have been putting in when asked about the progression of the West Virginia offense and its big play ability this spring. In Saturday's scrimmage the offense showed off some of that explosiveness, hitting on a pair of long touchdown passes to Shelton Gibson as well as another lengthy scoring strike to sophomore wide receiver Gary Jennings. Big passing plays are something Mountaineer fans have come to expect since Dana Holgorsen took over the program in 2011, and if Saturday's scrimmage was any indication this could be his most lethal aerial attack since Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey played in 2012. Mountaineer fans won't dispute that this is the deepest and most experienced offense to take the field since 2012, but shaky play on both ends of the passing attack in the Big 12 a year ago still has many West Virginia fans tempering their expectations for 2016.
However, Howard remains optimistic and says both his improved his pocket awareness and the advantage of playing behind an experienced offensive line have helped him take his game to the next level.
"The offensive line working as hard as they're working allows me to be comfortable back there," Howard said. "I don't have to run over the place, I can sit on my back foot and deliver the ball to those guys. It goes from the offensive line, to me sitting back there, to the receivers getting open and it's all coming together."
Howard also said his experience running this offense has been an integral part of his development.
"This is my third year," Howard said. "So when you play this much ball it starts to slow down. It's like being a batter in the major league - you can start seeing the rotation of the pitch and the rotation of the defense, you start to see things before they happen so it's only going to get better."
Spring is usually the season for optimism on college practice fields all over he country, but Mountaineer fans have to like what they're hearing from a veteran quarterback who says the game is slowing down for him. If Howard's big league batter analogy reigns true the Mountaineers should expect plenty of home run plays in 2016.
If January's Cactus Bowl is any indication, Ka'Raun White is poised for a breakout season in 2016. Many will unfairly equate Ka'Raun's development to his brother Kevin, who was an All-American at WVU in 2014 and parlayed a monster senior season into a top 10 pick in last year's NFL draft. However, there are some legitimate parallels - besides the dreadlocks and the name on the back on the jersey - that can be drawn between the two. Both brothers showed flashes of brilliance in their debut seasons at West Virginia and both have similar skill-sets. At points in the 2015 season Ka'Raun showed glimpses of his brother with his ability to out-muscle smaller defensive backs and high-point the ball. White spoke about the blessing and burden of living up to the expectations his brother has set.
"It was a burden before, but now it's a blessing," White said. "I just have to keep making plays and make a name for myself, starting off in the first game of the season and go from there."
White has been using the family name to his advantage this year, asking his brother Kevin for advice on improving both his game and his production from last year. While Ka'Raun probably won't duplicate his brother's 2014 numbers at receiver (109 rec, 1,447 yds, 10 TDs) he could certainly attain the same kind of bump in production. From 2013 to 2014 Kevin more than tripled his number of receptions (35 to 109), almost tripled his receiving yards (507 to 1447) and doubled his number of touchdowns (5 to 10). Ka'Raun only registered 15 catches for 275 yards last year and it's not crazy to think that he won't be able to double or even triple those numbers in the upcoming season.
Even though spring practice will end next Saturday, White's workload will not. White spoke about the work he plans to put in over the summer and says it will continue to develop the rapport he has already built with senior quarterback Skyler Howard..
"We'll be working a lot during the summer on route-running, catching and communication," White said. "Summer time will be great for us."