Shortly after West Virginia's 2016 season ended, junior speedster Shelton Gibson announced he would be entering the NFL draft. The decision, which came as a surprise to many, meant that the Mountaineers were losing over 1800 combined receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. That's obviously a good chunk of production, but receivers coach Tyron Carrier doesn't appear to be losing much sleep over the departures of his two leading receivers.
"You can't replace those guys," Carrier explained. "They're going to be really good NFL players, they're really good football players. The thing about it is, the guys who have been here have two years under them so they understand a lot better. They're figuring things out and they have more time to figure things out than Shelton and Daikiel. From that standpoint I wasn't concerned about it. It's next guy up."
The Mountaineers should have a much more polished pocket passer in 2017 with Will Grier and according to Carrier, his returning group of receivers has already taken the initiative to build chemistry and start gelling with the former Florida Gator.
"They do it on their own actually," said Carrier. "You don't have to tell them they need to start building chemistry, they do that on their own. When you get those type of things and you don't have to mention much and they just do it, that's how you know it's going to be special."
While Carrier has only been with West Virginia for one season, he is widely regarded for his constructive criticism and known not to hand out compliments that are undeserved, so if the second year WR coach says the potential is there to be special, it truly means something. The Mountaineers still return some talented players at the position and should be led by senior Ka'Raun White, who had scored touchdowns in three consecutive games before breaking his ankle against Iowa State in the 11th contest of the season. According to Carrier, White is still limited by the injury but has been showing more of a leadership role in the offseason.
"As soon as he's able to run and cut it will get a little better," said Carrier. "He's very vocal right now which is very surprising. He's vocal, he puts his point across and guys listen."
West Virginia also returns Gary Jennings, Jovon Durante and Marcus Simms to its receiving corps and each has shown flashes of big play ability at points in their Mountaineer careers. Now, it will be a matter of consistently making big plays in 2016. The Mountaineers will also welcome back David Sills to the roster and although Carrier has yet to coach the junior wideout, he is already impressed with Sills' attention to detail.
"He took the initiative," He reached out to Daikiel (Shorts) because he and Daikiel are friends and he asked Daikiel everything that I like and that I don't like and how I expect him to run routes. I came out and saw him running around and I asked him a couple of questions and he said 'I took everything from Daikiel. Everything he told me I did.' That's what really gets you excited about kids like that."
Despite the losses of Shorts and Gibson West Virginia should still be deep and talented at the wide receiver position in 2017, and if you ask coach Carrier, the group could be downright special.