West Virginia receivers starting to catch on with offense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Coming off a successful game throwing the football in a loss to Texas Tech, West Virginia coaches feel their passing game may be about to blossom — and it may have more to do with improvement in the receivers than in quarterback Clint Trickett's return to health.
Trickett, a transfer from Florida State, did not take over the quarterback job until the season's fifth game and sprained his throwing shoulder late in the upset victory over Oklahoma State.
He played with the injury against Baylor but completed just 9 of 28 passes for 161 yards. Given a week to heal, he returned against Texas Tech and completed 27 of 43 passes for 254 yards.
As important, however, has been the growth of a young wide receiver corps, headed by junior college transfer Kevin White and true freshman Daikiel Shorts. They have the coaches believing big things may be ahead through the second half of what is now a 3-4 season heading into Saturday's game at Kansas State.
“I've refrained from saying what I want to say because people would say I'm an idiot,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “I've always been positive about this group because I know the potential there. It's not going to happen overnight.”
And that is how it's been for a group that includes White, Shorts, Ronnie Carswell and Mario Alford.
“Look where we are now,” Dawson said. “This is a group of kids who didn't have a West Virginia uniform on last year. That's not an excuse. That's just reality.
“But now the challenge is to keep getting better. There comes a time when there has to be some fruits of your labor, and that's a win.”
Trickett is sensing something good happening.
“It's starting to click, definitely,” he said. “The guys are making plays. ... They are getting more confident and, like I said, the more confident we are maybe big things are about to happen.”
White's promise came to the surface against Baylor when he caught seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, then followed it up with five catches for 77 yards, including a key 40-yard third-down leaping grab against Texas Tech.
That's 12 catches for 207 yards against two teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings, to say nothing of drawing three pass interference calls against Texas Tech.
Shorts turned in a big performance against the Red Raiders, catching a team-high nine passes for 78 yards.
“He made some mistakes, but you're not going to play a perfect game,” Dawson said. “I don't think anyone ever has. To his credit, he's been one of our more consistent players since we moved him inside in camp.”
Said Shorts: “I'm starting to get used to it. It helped to come in early during the spring.”
A big part is coach Dana Holgorsen settling on Trickett at quarterback so he can develop his timing with the receivers.
“It is definitely coming along better, timing and continuity,” said Trickett, who will start for the fourth straight week. “It is very important.”
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.