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2017 Wide Receivers Preview

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West Virginia’s offense is once again primed for another stellar year in 2017. With the addition of Will Grier under center and the presence of an even more prominent run game, it’s the pass-catchers that are set to finally live up to their collective potential.

Let’s dive into what we should expect from this year’s crop of receivers for the Mountaineers.

What We Lost

Dana Holgorsen will attempt to replace the production from a pair of offensive studs after losing Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts to the NFL in 2016. Gibson’s big play ability and Shorts’ Velcro-esque hands aided in keeping drives alive for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia will also have to do without Steven Smothers due to “academic issues”, Jovon Durante transferring to Florida Atlantic and Devonte Mathis to graduation.

You could also throw in the Marcus Simms one game suspension, but if that’s all he misses, I think we will be just fine.

Incoming Talent

The most familiar name of this group is David Sills, and if you are a believer in the importance of the Spring Game, it was clear that Will Grier and Sills have already cooked up great chemistry. Sills hauled in 6 passes for 96 total yards in April after spending last season at El Camino College as a quarterback. Despite a loaded receiving corps, Sills has a complex understanding of Holgorsen’s system which should catapult him into becoming Grier’s go-to target.

The Mountaineers will also welcome Dominique Maiden (Riverside C.C, Riverside, CA) and Reggie Roberson (Horn HS, Mesquite, TX) into the mix.

At 6-foot-5, Maiden immediately becomes the tallest receiver for the Mountaineers. His size and soft hands should make an impact in the red-zone – an area of need for Holgorsen’s offense.

Roberson is not far behind at 6-foot-3. He should also be able to sneak into the rotation given his superior frame.

 

Returning Players

The biggest question mark heading into 2017 will be whether or not the returning stable of receivers can finally become who we thought they would be. Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings, and Ka’Raun White have all shown unlimited potential during their careers as Mountaineers, but is the addition of Grier at quarterback finally what they need to consistently tap into that potential?

Unfairly, we have expected White to literally follow in his brother’s footsteps, but injuries and inconsistent quarterback play have left fans apologetically disappointed. 2017 is finally the year in which he is fully healthy and has a more than capable quarterback to get him the ball.

Jennings doesn’t have nagging injuries to claim for his inconsistency. Much like trying to force a peg into its rightful place, he is simply looking to fit in. The talent is there and it’s obvious. Once again, Will Grier should be a large enough asset to provide enough opportunities for everyone involved.

Lastly, Trevon Wesco deserves recognition as a pivotal player despite recording a single 6-yard catch in 2016. Wesco played in 10 games last season despite spending much of the offseason on the sidelines due to injury. His purpose in the offense should be something of note in 2017 after the Mountaineers secured the commitments from two athletic tight ends in the 2018 class. Clearly, Spavital and Holgorsen have a grander purpose for ends who can make a difference in the passing game.

Final Word

The reoccurring theme is evident. Will Grier is the gear in which this offense’s teeth turn on. Without him, there is a drastically different narrative surrounding the potential of the Mountaineers’ offensive ability.

Let’s pretend Will Grier lives up to the obtainable hype he has brought with him.

There is already enough evidence to support the claim that David Sills surpasses the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver so long he remains healthy. The return of Jake Spavital and his up-tempo offense should remind fans of a time not too long ago. The biggest difference between this Mountaineers’ offense and the one led by Geno Smith is the proven fact that Holgorsen can effectively run the football.

Jennings, Simms, and White should not be too far behind. Arguably, White is the best receiver of the bunch, but Sills’ Spring Game stat line is hard to ignore. Jennings and Simms simply need to discover their role in this offense and reap the benefits of having an elite quarterback calling the shots. None of the three will break 1,000 yards due to a stellar running game, but collectively, will be considered the most improved players on the field.

Maiden and Roberson are new to this offense and new to Spavital’s style of play. For these reasons, neither of them will break 500 yards but will turn into go-to red zone targets by the third game of the season.

Let’s not forget about Druw Bowen and Ricky Rogers. Both have elite size but were buried on a depth chart that featured two future NFL players in 2016. They will start the season with the second team but should see more playing time in 2017.

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Graduated from East Tennessee State University with a BA in English and minor in journalism. Born and raised in Huntington, WV before moving to Johnson City, TN to attend school. Now married and rooted in Bristol, TN. Follow Matt on Twitter @MattAlbrightGBZ

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