2018 Position Overview: Wide Receivers
The hype train for West Virginia’s 2018 offense is currently operating at warp speed. While the lion’s share of the social media cavalcade has been focused on star quarterback Will Grier and his upcoming run at the Heisman trophy, there’s also been no shortage of exposure for West Virginia’s wide receivers. No matter how talented Grier is in the pocket and no matter how disciplined the offensive line may be, once the ball is in the air, it’s up to WVU’s perimeter arsenal to make the Morgantown Air Raid a record-setting force in 2018.
True to life in the Big 12, West Virginia’s fate seems to start and end with putting the ball in the air and letting the chips fall where they may. With that in mind, let’s preview who will lead the Mountaineers’ receiving corps come September 1st.
Starters – David Sills, H,(RS-Sr.), Gary Jennings Y, (Sr.), Marcus Simms X, (Jr.), T.J. Simmons Z, (RS-so.)
A year ago, David Sills was a surprise re-addition to the Mountaineers roster, having ventured out on own his own to test the JuCo quarterback waters. Without Sills, Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms had only combined for a career total of 23 receptions and 376 yards prior to West Virginia’s season opener with Virginia Tech.
What a difference a year can make.
David Sills just missed hoisting the Biletnikoff trophy this past season and is returning in 2018 as arguably the nation’s most dangerous scoring threat at the WR position. He lives in the end zone. To add to Sills’ nation’s-best 18 touchdowns from a year ago, Jennings and Simms also return to the starting lineup as two of college football’s best possession receivers and straight-line/downfield threats, respectively. All told, the powerful triumvirate of Sills/Jennings/Simms is looking to build off a season that saw them compile 192 receptions, 2,739 yards and 24 TD’s. SHEESH.
In addition, Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons is the newest jet on Dana Holgorsen’s runway after sitting out last year per NCAA rules,. Simmons brings a great pedigree to the lineup, and those close to the program report that the 6’2″ Alabama native has all the tools to have a breakout season. With as much proven experience as the Mountaineers will boast in 2018, it helps to have something of a wildcard in hand to further malign opposing secondaries.
When you return the level of talent and experience that West Virginia does in 2018, you stand a chance to become the toast of college football. With regard to size, speed and versatility across the starting lineup, this group of receivers has it all in spades and will be a nightmare for opposing defenses to contend with.
Backups – Tevin Bush, H (So.), Dominique Maiden, X (Sr.), Dillon Spalding, H (Fr.), Sam James, Z (Fr.), William Crest, Y (Sr.), Bryce Wheaton, X (Fr.), Druw Bowen, Y (So.), Randy Fields, Y (Fr.)
The good news here is that, behind the nationally renowned starters, there are plenty of backups, both experienced and raw. Bush and Maiden saw the most field time last year (which, admittedly, wasn’t much), but are poised for much bigger roles in 2018. Bush is eerily reminiscent of former Mountaineer Jock Sanders in both stature and explosiveness, and 6’5″ JuCo arrival Maiden could become a surprise red zone threat.
It’s also worth mentioning that Crest, the one-time quarterback prospect from Baltimore, has been with the program now for what seems like a decade. It’s hard to predict how impactful he’ll be in his final season at West Virginia but one can hope that his natural ability, at long last, shines through.
Finally, almost as a perfect mirror to the starters at wide receiver, the Mountaineers feature a slew of incoming talent that seems as diverse as it does capable. James is a two-time Georgia 400m state champ who can flat-out fly. Spalding is a large, formidable possession target like fellow Virginian Gary Jennings. Wheaton is a Mountaineer legacy who is a tall, athletic body that can run vertical routes downfield.
The nucleus for the next great West Virginia receiving corps is already here and, hopefully, 2018 is a year that the majority of these kids can sit back and acclimate themselves to a bigger stage. However, I’d like for Bush, Maiden and possibly James to emerge this year as producers who can regularly spell the starters, ensuring Tyron Carrier’s guys are constantly fresh and ready to blast holes in opposing defenses.
All told, West Virginia will likely boast the finest wide receiver corps in college football this coming season.