Durante Missing, Simms Suspended… Now What?
Received depth has taken a hit. Now what for West Virginia?
A year ago the wide receiver corps seemed very promising behind Shelton Gibson and Dakiel Shorts. At least four receivers returning in 2017 that would make for a formidable and experienced receiving group.
Ka’Raun White had been a productive starter in his first full season in Morgantown. Gary Jennings displayed great size and versatility. Jovon Durante was expected to bounce back from a quiet year. Then there was Marcus SImms, the 6-good sophomore from Maryland who played in nine games last season. And that was all before David Sills returned to West Virginia.
Since the start of the spring, the wide receiver group seems to get thinner and questionable. The more Durante has been asked about, the shorter the answers have become, as he has been a no show to camp. Simms has seen his share of problems off the field this offseason which has resulted in a one-game suspension. There goes some experienced depth.
Though Simms is only suspended for one game, he is suspended for the game that many believe will set the tone for the Mountaineers this season: Virginia Tech.
So looking forward, Coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers will have to raise the expectations for his young receivers.
White, the redshirt senior, has developed into the mature wide out many expected him to be. After 48 catches for 583 yards and five touchdowns last season to go along with a good training camp, you can only expect growth from the elder of the group. Jennings is going to see the field more than his last two seasons in Morgantown, but that goes without worry.
Special teams coach Mark Scott told reporters: “So far, he has taken his game to the next level both at receiver and I think he feels more comfortable, more confident in catching the ball and going on punt returns.”
Jennings will be ready to assume a bigger role.
As things move outside you have Sills. WVU fans remember Sills from 2015, recruited as a quarterback and made a crucial transition to wide receiver to add depth. As things did not work out at quarterback in 2016 at El Camino College, the 6-4 junior looks to be an outside threat for Will Grier, but will still need time to become acclimated with the position once again.
Then that is when things become complicated. Depth becomes the biggest issue at wide receiver with the suspension of Simms and no Durante. Domonique Maiden is a 6-5 junior from Riverside City Community College, who adds great size, but Coach Holgorsen said it best, size with no technique does not help. Verdict still out on Maiden, but you can be optimistic. The junior had 36 receptions for 480 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Druw Bowen, William Crest Jr., and Ricky Rogers would fill in the rest of the Mountaineer wideouts who have to be ready to step in and play. Bowen, a redshirt freshman from Charleston, will also have a chance to step up and prove he can be an asset with just 19 days left til kickoff. Crest Jr, most remember being the backup quarterback to Skyler Howard, has now made the transition to wide receiver and has seen time at inside receiver throughout camp. Rogers is a 6-1 redshirt junior who has not seen much action outside of special teams for the Mountaineers, but that could change in upcoming weeks.
But here is the genius of Offensive Coordinator and new play caller Jake Spavital. Running backs Kennedy McKoy and Tevin Bush have both been spending time with the wide receivers specifically working on their game in the slot. That alone adds depth to the position, with packages that will utilize running backs at the line of scrimmage.