With most of the receivers from last year returning for the 2006 season, wideout wasn't a position of need in terms of numbers in this class. However, in terms of performance, especially in downfield receiving, it was. West Virginia targeted several tall receivers and came away with a pair that could be able to help bolster WVU's deep passing attack. And in the bargain, it also got a versatile player that could help in the intermediate game as well.
Rangy Wes Lyons (6-6, 180 lbs.) of Woodland Hills High School was a Mountaineer target for a long time, and when his skills are matched with the needs of the WVU offense, it's easy to see why. Lyons has a number of talents, but attacking the ball at it highest point and adjusting to throws in the air are probably at the top of his list, which made him a much sought after prospect.
West Virginia has struggled to win the one-on-one downfield passing matchups that have resulted from its success in the running game. Opponents crowd safeties to the line of scrimmage like hyenas on a carcass, trying to slow down the spread rushing attack, and thus leave wideouts in single coverage downfield. Lyons, who possesses a gliding running style and good timing in knowing when to go up after the ball, could help fill that bill.
Of course, Lyons isn't going to push players like Brandon Myles out of the way. Myles showed steady play for much of the season, and is a good weapon on the wide receiver screens employed in the Rich Rodriguez offense. However, he has yet to show the consistent ability to make plays downfield, so there could be situations in which Lyons is a preferred target this year. Rayshawn Bolden, who shows glimpses of ability to get downfield and make these sorts of plays, is also still in the picture, but the curse of inconsistency is even more magnified in his case.
Dorrell Jalloh and Brandon Barrett are also forces to be reckoned with, but both, like Myles and Bolden, had up and down seasons. Jalloh started early in the season, but his inability to get open hindered the WVU passing attack. Barrett, who was involved in a battle to re-earn his scholarship, made it onto the field for the Sugar Bowl, but still has a long way to go before he can be deemed a contributing member of the receiving corps.
With all this in mind, the door certainly seems open for Lyons to make a quick impact on the West Virginia offense, particularly downfield. Timing patterns, once a staple of WVU's red zone offense, could also reappear this fall, with the 6-6 Pennsylvanian being the primary target.
Many of the same factors hold true when examining John Maddox (6-3, 170 lbs.). Hailing from the opposite end of the state as Lyons, Maddox is a different type of receiver, but one that could quickly find a niche in WVU's offense. Maddox's strengths are his excellent hands and body control – traits that should help him no matter where he winds up. What makes Maddox even more attractive is the fact that his combination of skills could allow him to play either outside or in the slot – thus giving him more chances to see the field early.
Of course, in front of Lyons sits the explosive Darius Reynaud, who appears to be poised for a breakout year, should WVU get the ball in his hands enough times. Of course, one player isn't enough to man the position entirely, so Maddox could have the chance to help here as well, especially if Vaughn Rivers moves back to defense to help at the depleted cornerback position. However, young returnees such as Darren Brownlee and Jeremy Bruce, who was poised to earn more playing time before an ankle injury slowed him, will also be in the mix, and won't give up depth chart spots without a fight.
Neither of WVU's signees are speed burners, so there shouldn't be expectations of the newcomers blasting by defenders on a regular basis. However, there is more than one way to win in the downfield passing game, and both Lyons and Maddox have the ability to beat defenders to the ball and make plays. If either of them can turn that into reality on the practice field during fall camp, they could avoid a redshirt. However, that outcome certainly isn't a given at this point.
Up next, we bounce back to the other side of the ball for a look at the defensive linemen.