Tyron Carrier may be in his first year as a full-time Division 1 position coach, but the Houston native already has a knack for demanding focus and attention to detail that all veteran coaches possess. Coming out of the Mountaineers' second bye week of the season, Carrier seemed pleased that his receivers got a chance to get their legs back but said the week off wouldn't have any effect on the rhythm of the group.
"We had a pretty tough camp," Carrier said. "There was a lot of running from our guys so it's always good to get your legs back. As far as rhythm, we practice really hard during the bye weeks. We gave them a couple of days off but I don't think we lose a step."
And that's good because for the most part, the Mountaineers' receivers have been one of the more consistent units on the team. Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts rank third and eighth, respectively, in receiving yards per game in the Big 12, and Ka'Raun White and Jovon Durante had two of their better performances of the young season against Kansas State. Carrier did state that he has seen the receivers progress slowly but surely, but says there is still work to be done before the group is where he wants them to be.
"Slowly, I have seen progression," Carrier said. "I'm thinking by game eight we'll be hitting on all cylinders. It could happen next game. They're coming along but they still have a long way to go. The physical aspect is almost there. They have bought into it and they get it, but it's more of just remembering what to do. Sometimes things get a little hostile and they get back to old habits."
Among the specific items Carrier would like to see his unit improve upon are better communication with the quarterback, fundamentals such as keeping shoulders square and keeping their eyes up while they run routes.
The hope is that as the Mountaineer receivers fix some of those fundamental flaws that Carrier still sees, the offensive production, specifically points scored,will start to improve going forward. The Mountaineers currently average 29 points per game, which won't cut it against most of the Big 12's high powered offenses. Senior wide receiver Daikiel Shorts has played his fair share of Big 12 games and knows firsthand the importance of scoring points and he says that's a huge emphasis among the receivers going forward.
"We don't know the reason right now (that more points aren't being scored)," Shorts admitted. "We just have to focus on that once we get in the red zone and get touchdowns and not settle for field goals. We'll take points but we need to score more touchdowns."
Touchdowns will be imperative against Texas Tech, who has scored 50 or more points in every game in Lubbock dating back to late in the 2014 season. Shorts knows the 17 points it took to beat Kansas State won't be enough to beat many other teams in conference play.
"We just have to emphasize scoring points," Shorts added. "Not just this week but every game after this week. The Big 12 scores a lot of points so we need to get more points on the board."
One somewhat disturbing statistic from the Mountaineers' offense is that outside of the Youngstown State game, the team has only combined for two receiving touchdowns in its other three games on the year. Shorts said that in order to get in the end zone more, the receivers need to do more to help quarterback Skyler Howard out and that was a large emphasis in the bye week.
"(The receivers focused on) timing with Skyler and being on the same page," Shorts said. "Everybody has things they need to fix - the defense, the offensive line, but especially us as receivers. We have things that we need to work on and things that we need to correct."
If there was ever a week for the Mountaineer receivers to find the end zone, this would be the time to do it. Texas Tech ranks in the bottom half of the conference in almost every defensive statistical category and the hope is that the Mountaineers can break through and record multiple passing touchdowns for the first time against a Division 1 opponent this season. If they don't, it could spell trouble in Lubbock.