After all, one figures players like Shelton Gibson, Ka'Raun White, Jovon Durante and the ever-reliable Daikiel Shorts figure to at least match - and likely exceed - their production from last season. Gibson is among the premiere deep threats in the Big 12 and White has shown his strength and tenacity in attacking both defensive backs and the football. Durante returns from suspension and should elevate his play in his second year, and have a better understanding of how not to wear down in the second half of the season. And Shorts was the Mountaineers' leader in receptions last season with 45, for 528 yards and five touchdowns.
So what has sold Carrier on Jennings? The 6-2, 203-pound sophomore totaled just five catches for 48 yards before what some considered a breakout performance in the Cactus Bowl, when he toasted a porous Arizona State secondary for a 64-yard touchdown, the first of his career. He also caught one other pass for four yards, but that one big play seemed to boost Jennings' confidence, and he has continued to impress over the spring and through summer workouts.
"I told him he's our guy we plug in anywhere," Carrier said. "He can play inside, he can play out. It's just where we need him. We are trying to figure that out. Wherever we need him we can definitely put him there and we know he will come in and compete."
Carrier saw the potential and asked head coach Dana Holgorsen if he could experiment with Jennings inside during the latter portions of spring. Holgorsen agreed, and now West Virginia has a more versatile threat with which it can fill multiple needs. The wideout was held out of two practices this week after tearing the webbing between his finger and thumb while catching a pass.
"Gary fits that mold," Holgorsen said. "He played outside last year. He played inside during the spring. He went inside all during the summer. He’s back outside. I agree, he’s reliable, he’s big, he can make plays, he has great hand eye coordination and he’s incredibly dependable when it comes to catching punts. I just want to see him practice."
Jennings also had WVU's longest punt return of the season in the bowl game, a 21-yarder. He finished with 13 returns for 69 yards to lead the team, and he was named the Special Teams MVP for the Cactus Bowl. He's also shown physicality while blocking, something the coach staff demands be instilled in the skill players.
"My big guys are tough as crap," Carrier said. "You know anything that comes around them they catch. Whoever is trying to deliver the blow has to be prepared for it because they going to bring it right back to them. Those guys intimidate the guys on the other side of the ball. ... You’ve got to be a little crazy to play football, to bang your head into people, anyway. You’ve got to have something about you that says, ‘I don’t care how big you are or what everybody says you are. You’re going to have to go against me, and it’s going to be a long night.
"You can call it finesse because we get the ball in space and let guys make plays, but there is nothing finesse about it. The receivers will still go out there and block on screens and the inside guys still dig out linebackers. If scoring a lot of points is soft, then call us soft.”null