Deep Impact

West Virginia has long been searching for a downfield receiving threat. Might the solution now be in place?

Last season, Alric Arnett hit the practice field for the first time at West Virginia with high expectations for himself. Having signed with the Mountaineers out of the junior college ranks during the spring of 2007, Arnett was looked upon by West Virginia's coaching staff at the time as another added weapon to what was already a very lethal arsenal.

Unfortunately for Arnett, though, his season was over before it really got started. An injury in the early stages of camp put him on the shelf for a number of weeks, and while he was able to redshirt to save a year of eligibility, being away from the field was certainly not something the talented Floridian was accustomed to.

One year later, Alric Arnett's fortunes are looking much better. At the conclusion of fall camp, the junior has a firm hold on one of two starting outside receiver positions for the Mountaineers. And after hearing his teammates and coaches talk about the type of camp that he's had, it's no wonder why those same expectations which he carried with him prior to the injury are beginning to rise to the surface once more.

Despite the lofty goals for both him and the offense as a whole, however, Arnett has learned not to take anything for granted.

"I know that I'm going to be a contributor this year," Arnett said. "But, at the same time, I've just got to stay humble, stay poised, stay focused. Then, when my number is called, I have to make the plays."

The type of plays that Arnett prefers to make are of the game-changing variety. At 6-2, Arnett has the height to create matchup problems against smaller defensive backs. Add in his outstanding speed and an ability to get separation, and you can begin to get a picture of what Arnett brings to the table.

Though these physical gifts made him an attractive prospect coming out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Junior College, Arnett's grasp of the West Virginia offense is what has made him such an asset to the Mountaineers. In a roundabout way, the amount of time that it took recovering from his thumb injury last fall is actually paying dividends for him as the offense begins to settle in under first-year coordinator Jeff Mullen.

"Last year, I just spent a lot of time in the training room. I pretty much stayed in there, and didn't even make it out on the scout team all that much," he explained. "I didn't make it back out until the week we played Pittsburgh. I didn't practice much at all during the fall."

Thus, he never particularly learned the offense of the former coaching staff, meaning he didn't have to unlearn it when Mullen arrived with his own tweaked version of the spread in January.

"This is something new," he said of the scheme. "I never really settled into the last offense. This offense, I won't say it was really easy for me to pick up, but I don't think it was as hard as me to pick up as it was for some other guys. They had the other offense stuck in their head."

After learning the basics in the spring, Arnett and the rest of the receivers have applied those basics to conquer what was left to learn at the beginning of fall camp. And while the offensive group from top to bottom looks and feels comfortable in the new system as preparations begin for the season opener against Villanova, the presence of a healthy and confident Arnett could be the more important than any other offseason addition or tweak.

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