If that sounds like the chicken-or-egg dilemma, it's in the ballpark of similarity. West Virginia receivers coach Tyron Carrier said his group has all the raw physical tools one wants in facing Power Five conference foes. There's good hand-eye coordination and ball skills, speed, quickness, strength, and the ability to both stretch the field and make plays underneath via mesh routes, quick outs, slants, etc. The biggest issue of now is that at times during practice, the group would stagnate as a whole, and need a couple solid plays to get rolling. It's an idea which was addressed by Ka'Raun White after a subpar scrimmage during fall camp, and it's apparently one that still stresses the wideouts at times.
"It’s pretty contagious," White said. "That’s why me or Daikiel (Shorts) will say, ‘Ka’Raun make a play, so we can get it going again’. If we don’t make a play, it just keeps going throughout and everyone just gets out of it. It’s definitely contagious."
It was an idea addressed here, in an in-depth article examining such. The question now isn't whether the plays feed upon each other - they do. It's how to generate that offense in the first place.
"I don't know if it's so much of a weakness, but I think (they need) confidence," Carrier said. "They don't really know how good they are yet. They need this first game against a great opponent to prove to themselves how good they really are. I believe in them 110 percent. They have size, they have speed, experience and we got big play makers, too."
What they're looking for is that initial jolt, that play that starts the snowball, knocks over the first domino, which then sets off the chain of similar plays and results. It happened multiple times last season, against teams like Maryland, Texas, Kansas and especially Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl. But that same avalanche was never started versus the likes of Kansas State, TCU and, until late, Oklahoma State.
"With the young guys, it's just making sure they know their assignment," senior wideout Daikiel Shorts said. "They are talented. As long as they know their assignment, they'll be good to make a play. Towards the end of camp, I feel like we all started making more plays and seeing that we can do it day in and day out. As long as we listen to the coaches and do our assignment and technique, I feel like we will be able to make a lot of plays."
The spark could come from anywhere, Shorts included. With his mix of strength, body control and ball skills, the slot receiver has become the Mountaineers' most dangerous threat inside the red zone. The 6-1, 202-pounder caught two touchdowns in the bowl game part of his team-high 45 receptions last season. Mix in deep threats like Shelton Gibson, Gary Jennings and, though he's now working at the slot, Jovon Durante with possession types like White and WVU has the tools to exploit defenses vertically and horizontally and stretch defenders in space.
"You really never know until they start throwing it at you and you react," Carrier said of first game jitters. "It's how you handle the pressure. It's a big first game. But my guys will be up for the challenge. They are pumped up, it's game one and their legs are back."
West Virginia has also tried to aid its run game via better downfield blocking, an aspect that could be key against a Missouri defense which ranked second in the FBS in points allowed per game at 13.6 last season.
"(Dana) Holgorsen and Carrier were teaching us up on more run blocking and being more physical downfield," Shorts said. "Those blocks definitely help make big runs. If they hit that hole and we block downfield, that could be a touchdown."