Answering the Questions - 2

We continue the evaluations of our five spring football questions with a look at the wide receiving corps.

Question 1: Will enough players be found at wide receiver to form the eight deep that the coaching staff would like?

The answer to this question is "probably not". However, with WVU's slight shift in offensive strategy, the coaching staff can probably get by with six or seven solid receivers this year.

Going into the spring, the hope was to add to the returning corps of A.J. Nastasi, Phil Braxton and Mike Page. If a couple of young receivers could pair with a walkon to make a depth chart splash, the Mountaineers would be in respectable shape going into the fall.

The good news from spring was that Nastasi performed as expected, and is a solid starter for the fall. Miquelle Henderson improved a great deal, and became a primary target for the quarterbacks during the last few practice sessions. And walk-on John Pennington clawed his way up the depth chart to a starting position as he made tough catches and became one of the best blockers among the wide receivers.

On the next rung down, Dee Alston made some improvements, but how much he will be able to contribute this fall is in question.

The bad news was that the returning duo of Phil Braxton and Mike Page were both sidelined the entire spring by injury. Both earned starting assignments in 2001, but missed spring work and lingering injury concerns combine to make them question marks again for the fall.

So, in the end, the receivng corps came out of the spring pretty much the way it went in, only with some different faces in the "solid" versus "questionable" spots.

That leaves wide receviers coach Steve Bird still hoping that the majority of his incoming crop of receivers are not only eligible to play, but capable of contributing immediately, which is exactly where he was after last spring's practices.

This time, however, the Mountaineer offense may have some ways to make up for that shortfall. In Rasheed Marshall, WVU has a more comfortable and more mobile quarterback. In Avon Cobourne, Quincy Wilson and Moe Fofana, West Virginia has the ability to run more two back sets, which would alleviate the need for eight battle-ready receivers. Will it be enough?

We think so. If WVU can count on two on the incoming receivers to help (let's say, Travis Garvin and Broderic Jones), then they could get by with a six deep rotation of Nastasi, Henderson, Pennington, Garvin and Jones, with plenty of room left for Braxton, Page or Alston, among others to make their mark.

It probably won't be a flashy group, but it has the potential to be good enough to take advantage of matchups created when defenses load up against the WVU running game.

Up next - Question 3: Will a quarterback emerge who can throw the ball accurately downfield?

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