Making the Move

Watching the WVU wide receivers go through drills this spring had to leave even the most confident Mountaineer fan scratching his or her head and wondering just where West Virginia was going to do its damage in the passing game when the fall rolls around.

The problem is certainly not a lack of effort. New WVU wide receivers coach Butch Jones is definitely giving it his all, and guys like Travis McClintic, Joe Hunter and Dorrell Jalloh are probably performing well above what their natural abilities should allow them to do.

Jones just does not have that born athlete who can go up and make a play that defies the laws of physics. There is no Chris Henry, Shawn Foreman, David Saunders or Reggie Rembert there to take the pressure off of the other wideouts.

Throughout the early spring, Jones simply tried to get the most out of what he had, but it quickly became obvious that he needed something more if the Mountaineers had any hopes for balance in their offense. West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez searched for answers, and when he noticed seven talented players busting their tails for two cornerback spots, a light bulb came on.

Among that group was a 5-9, 170-pound Pittsburgh native who had tremendous speed, great hands and had even caught 15 passes as a senior at Perry Academy. The answer to a once perplexing question suddenly seemed obvious.

With two weeks left in the spring, Rodriguez went to the young defensive back with the proposal, and Vaughn Rivers did not even take time to think twice about the offer before accepting his new role.

"There was no hesitation at all," said Rivers. "Coach Rod and (defensive back) Coach (Tony) Gibson came to me, and I was willing to do whatever was best for the team. I really welcomed the opportunity, because I wanted to get the ball in my hands. I felt like I could do some things for us to help make up for our lack of depth at receiver. They put me in with the (first team), and that let me know that they were really counting on me, and I had to step up.

"We have a lot of bodies at defensive back, but there are a lot of people banged up at receiver," Rivers continued. "I think they lacked a little leadership there, and that is what I wanted to step in and give them."

The move was complete, but the work was just beginning. Sure, Rivers had caught a few balls at the prep level but stepping into a Division I-A football program is a little different. It did not take long for Rivers to find that out.

"The hardest thing has been learning our offense, because it is complicated," said the 20-year-old sophomore sport management major. "The routes have been hard, and the blocking has been something new. I played receiver in high school, so it is kind of the same thing, but the fundamentals are so much more at this level. I am trying to get those down right now."

The first thing that caught his eye was the difference in running routes. Being a receiver in the Big East Conference means a little more than scrambling around the backyard with your hand held into the air trying to get open and let your quarterback see you.

"At this level, there is so much emphasis on the route running," Rivers explained, shaking his head in near disbelief. "You have to be so precise. In high school if you have quick feet and are athletic, you can get away with a lot. But at this level, everyone is just as quick as you, so you have to run your routes perfect."

Up next - part two of our interview with Rivers, including more of his thoughts on other aspects of the position and his view of his progress to date.

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the Blue & Gold News, which contains features, columns, insights and photos you won't find anywhere else. Complete your insight into the Mountaineer scene by subscribing today!

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