MORGANTOWN - If you're wondering how things are going in West Virginia's springtime effort to replace most of its receiving corps, well, keep wondering.Dana Holgorsen isn't disseminating much information and new wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway is saying even less.It's not that they don't have the answers, although to a large extent that's true. Replacing Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the two most prolific pass-catchers in school history, is no quick and easy task.But no, the real reason Galloway won't talk specifics in regard to what his receivers are accomplishing this spring is that he just doesn't want to.And with good reason."Right now we want to work with them as a group and see how much we can improve,'' Galloway said. "And then from the group, individuals will start separating themselves.''In other words, while you might have your own ideas of who might emerge from a group of about a dozen receivers, Galloway prefers to try to elevate them all. Eventually the cream will rise to the top, but with so many holes to fill, there are places for plenty.Consider how things shook out last season. Austin and Bailey were clearly the best of the bunch, followed by J.D. Woods, who is also gone. West Virginia's wide receivers caught 341 passes last season. Those three caught 289, or 85 percent.And when Bailey was hobbled for part of the season with a bad ankle or when Austin was filling in as a tailback or Woods was pretty much disappearing for stretches, what was left?
Not much. No one else averaged more than one catch per game.Galloway wants to make sure that doesn't happen again."That's what we're working on - two deep, three deep,'' Galloway said. "We want to find the best five or six or seven."Look at last year. It would have been nice when Tavon was here if they'd had somebody who was close to Tavon to be able to rest him. That's what we're striving for, trying to find the best six or seven guys to go out there on the field and you don't miss a beat when you have to rotate them.''
All of which is why no one is getting more attention than anyone else as the Mountaineers go through spring drills.Yes, there are some potential stars in the mix.
Holgorsen sang the praises of two newcomers, junior college transfer Kevin White and freshman Daikiel Shorts, before practice even began. Jordan Thompson was an August camp star who disappeared during the season, but seems likely to be the closest thing the team has to another Austin. Guys like Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers at least earned some playing time last season.But it's hard to get Galloway to open up about any of them. Take White, for instance. He's a 6-foot-3, 211-pounder who appears to have all the tools, but has been on campus only a few months."Kevin is coming along, but I don't want to toot Kevin's horn right now because he's been practicing for [only a few weeks],'' Galloway said. "He's a part of the group. He's made some plays in practice, but until he gets through these 15 days of [spring] practice he's just one of the guys . . . We're expecting him to do a lot of good things, but for right now he's one of the guys out of the 12 that we've got."But yes, he's what you're looking for. He's big, athletic, can run, tall, catches the ball. I'd take five or six Kevin Whites. But as far as coming from junior college and playing Big 12 football, who knows what's going to happen?''He likes Thompson, too, not so much because the 5-7, 168-pounder looks and plays a bit like Austin, but because he's working hard.
"But as far as him being the next [Austin], I'm not saying he couldn't be,'' Galloway said. "But there's only one Tavon and we all know that.''But like at quarterback, where Paul Millard and Ford Childress re both getting equal reps in an effort to find out who rises to the top, neither White nor Thompson nor anyone else is being groomed to replace last year's stars.At least not yet."That's what we're preaching to them, that they're only as good as the group,'' Galloway said. "And it's not just the receivers, but everybody. We're only going to be as good as the group . . . We need to be good from top to bottom, not just three or four good players.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.