MORGANTOWN - It was a fresh, new day at West Virginia University's football camp.The newcomers were finally given the high sign to meet with the media. It was a chance to get to know some of those expected to make an immediate impact.Some newcomers will be easy for Mountaineer fans to spot - if, indeed, they avoid redshirt status and hit the field.I refer to the new receivers.
"They all have the ability to [play]," said WVU quarterback Geno Smith. "Now it's just on the mental side."All of those guys are really good. Devonte Robinson is a speed guy. He can burn them deep. He also runs great routes. Devonte Mathis is really big. He's kind of a possession receiver. He runs great routes. He's got some speed to him."Jordan Thompson is a really small guy, but he plays big. He always makes plays. He finds a way to get open. He just has a knack for making great catches."And Travares Copeland is a really good guy. He's a quick-twitch guy who will look to make plays from the slot. I think he'll make some plays for us this season."All have been doing some really good things and impressing the players as well as the coaches."
Fans were able to familiarize themselves with Thompson because he hit Touchdown City in the spring.But allow me to introduce a couple of the others. Robinson, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, hails from small Village Academy High in Delray Beach, Fla. He said he's gone from a graduating class of 32 to preparing for Big 12 competition and crowds.The "speed guy" has been auditioning for work on the kickoff return teams and wants to play now."I don't want to redshirt," Robinson said Tuesday. "I want to play immediately, whatever I can do to help the team: special teams, offense, even if I have to play defense."A member of the 2011 Florida 2A all-state first team, Robinson is working offensively now at the Z receiver position along with Ryan Nehlen, Ivan McCartney and J.D. Woods.
"J.D. Woods is like an older brother," Robinson said. "He helps keep me level-headed and focused through everything."
Robinson led Palm Beach County with 950 receiving yards on 31 catches with a 30.6 yard-per-catch average last season. He knows, however, he needs to improve."I need to be consistent with my routes," Robinson said. "I need to be consistent with the press and off-man coverages."Going through the summer 7-on-7 work was good, though. It made it much easier with the regular practices."As for Mathis, well, fans have a head start on his background. That's because he hails from Hollywood, Fla., and Miramar High, which produced Smith, Stedman Bailey and McCartney. It's a place where Smith, according to Mathis, is "treated like the president." And it's a place that demands excellence."Expectations come from Geno and Stedman and Ivan," Mathis said. "It makes me work harder."Mathis, 6-2, 210 pounds, is working as an outside receiver with Bailey and redshirt freshman K.J. Myers. It's a full-time job after playing quarterback, running back and receiver for coach Damon Cogdell (a former Mountaineer player) at Miramar.
"I'm working with my size and speed here," Mathis said. "I'm trying to catch on to the defenses. In high school, there was a different defense here and there. But in college, everything is going so much faster. Different things are coming at you."Mathis did emerge from a similar spread, hurry-up, no huddle offense. He also emerged from a school that produced Tracy Howard, a Miami, Fla., signee rated the nation's No. 1 cornerback."It was good and helped me get ready for college knowing he's the top corner in the country," Mathis said. "I give him a lot of praise because he's ahead of the game."Now we'll see if Robinson, Mathis and some of the other newcomers can make their marks. "President" Smith seems satisfied, saying he wouldn't hesitate to throw to any when the season begins."Not at all," said the QB.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com.MitchVingle.