West Virginia's offense is likely to throw the ball more in 2008 than it has in previous years. The first part of making this probability a reality is the left arm of senior quarterback Patrick White. The second part? A group of wide receivers that enters the season looking slightly more solidified than it did just weeks ago makes up the second part of the equation.
The Mountaineers must replace departed leading receiver Darius Reynaud, now trying to make the cut with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. In the slot, sophomore Jock Sanders had one of the team's best fall camps, and while he may not equal Reynaud's total production, his presence as a threat in space will be a Reynaud-like component to WVU's revamped spread offense.
On the outside, though, things are a little murkier. At least they were at the beginning of fall camp. Now? Not so much, according to first-year receivers coach Lonnie Galloway.
Galloway feels that senior Tito Gonzales, junior Alric Arnett and redshirt freshman Bradley Starks, who also serves as the team's emergency quarterback, will give West Virginia a healthy trio of weapons at the outside receiver positions. Add in senior utility man Dorrell Jalloh, who will play both inside and outside, and all of the sudden the picture looks much more promising than it might have upon first glance.
A big reason for that, says Galloway, has been the consistency in fall camp of Gonzales and Arnett specifically.
"They fought through the whole camp and didn't miss a thing. Alric and Tito both had solid camps, good camps. Right now, those would be the two to run out there first," he said. "Arnett, he was hurt last year. His whole thing is juts practicing hard every day. He has the tools to be a good receiver. He can run, he's tall and athletic. He needs to get a little stronger, but overall he's a good football player."
Arnett's ability to stretch the field is something that Mountaineer coaches hope will be as much of a factor in the regular season as it has been in practices leading up to that point. With his first real opportunity to crack the lineup (he missed last season with an injured thumb), Arnett has risen to the occasion.
Add in the raw athleticism of Sparks, who owns so much ability that the coaching staff felt it a detriment to the team simply to keep him on the bench holding a clipboard as the third-string QB, and a second possible big-play threat suddenly emerges.
Starks missed parts of camp at receiver while recovering from a hamstring injury, but has returned to the receiving corps over the past week or so.
"He's back. We held him out early in camp and let him do mostly quarterback stuff because it was les running," Galloway noted. "He's back full-time with me, and you could tell he was a little winded, but he's doing some good things out there.
In a perfect world, Galloway would have an embarrassment of riches at his position. For right now, however, he's comfortable with where the position is at as a whole.
"I would like to get probably four or five of them ready to go, but the more the merrier," he said. "That way, if somebody gets winded you can throw someone else in there who is comfortable. Right now, we're working towards that. They're responding well. It's mostly mental stuff that we're dealing with now.
"They know what's going on, but now we just have to fine tune everything and put our best two or three guys out there in the right spots."
By the time kickoff roles around next Saturday, chances are that Galloway will have done just that.