MORGANTOWN - Lonnie Galloway and Shannon Dawson both spent a decent portion of West Virginia's preseason camp talking about the Mountaineers' depth at wide receiver.Sometimes, though, it was difficult to tell just what they thought of it.Yes, there were a whole lot of bodies there. Camp started with no less than 20 players on the roster with "WR'' beside their name. Even after Connor Arlia and Will Johnson moved on, there were still 18. Subtract the hybrid types who are really fullbacks in disguise and lop off a couple of walk-ons, and still the number of guys on scholarship whose primary job is to line up and go catch passes is a baker's dozen.But can they? Go catch passes, we mean?
"Right now we just have numbers,'' said Dawson, the offensive coordinator who coached the receivers last year and then moved to the quarterbacks this. "There's a difference between potential and actual production."Right now I think we do have the potential to have depth at receiver. But you never know the mental capability of people, especially young kids, kids who haven't played in a game under that amount of pressure.''Indeed, with most of WVU's receptions last year having graduated to the NFL - Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods combined to catch 289 of the 339 passes by non-running backs last season - there is a huge void. In fact, throw in a handful of other seniors or no-longer-with-the-program guys and guess how many wide receiver catches return from last season.Try 26 of 339. That's not even eight percent.Oh, and even among the few veterans in WVU's receiving corps, there are few who have been under pressure. Ivan McCartney and Jordan Thompson, who combined for 22 of those 26 catches last year, have played and have been in games at critical points. But with Austin, Bailey and Woods around, they've always tended to be third and fourth options, not primary receivers.That's why all that depth still leaves a huge question mark, because none of them have actually played under pressure.
"We have depth in terms of just bodies,'' Dawson said. "And they're capable bodies that look the part and run the part and all that. But adding the pressure of making plays is a whole different deal. And we don't know who that's going to be.''Well, they have a pretty good idea about who at least one of those will be. And they don't hide it very well.Even while spending the last week sidelined in a green medical jersey, Kevin White's name kept jumping out. Actually, the fact that he did spend the last week in green might say volumes in terms of the coaching staff not wanting to risk any further injury."It's just a sore shoulder,'' White said. "At least I hope that's all it is. I could practice if I had to.''Ask Galloway the same questions about the depth at wide receiver and you get pretty much the same answer - yes, there are plenty of bodies and they all look like receivers, but who knows?
"They're all doing well, all pretty much the same,'' said Galloway, back as the receivers coach after a two-year hiatus at Wake Forest. "Well, there's one guy who has elevated his game above the rest, but we won't go there.''
It's White. Even if he wouldn't actually say it out loud, Galloway admitted that if one were to speculate that way, he wouldn't be embarrassed."I'm not saying it's me. It could be anyone,'' White said with a smile when I told him of Galloway's not-so-subtle hints about him. "But yeah, I think I'm playing pretty well.''Indeed, if there's anyone in the receiving corps that looks the part it is the junior college transfer from New Jersey by way of Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania. At 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, he's the kind of big receiver over which coaches drool.Shoot, throw in the dreadlocked hair and the No. 11 jersey and he looks like Bruce Irvin lined up against a cornerback."Yeah, a few of the guys have told me that,'' White said. "And a few of the coaches, too.''
If a big part of the game is mental, White seems to have that part down. He's confident to the point of being cocky, but without making it seem so."Yeah, I think I'm the only one who can stop me,'' White said. "But I think everyone should feel that way. It's just a mind thing, being confident. If you don't think you're going to beat a guy in man coverage, you're beat before the play starts.''The only real chance to see White so far came in WVU's spring game and he didn't disappoint. He caught five passes for 72 yards and had a highlight-reel touchdown run after catching a short pass and taking it 46 yards.He is, of course, just one. In an offense that figures to throw north of 500 passes again this season, White will need help out there. It could come from a lot of different places."We need to find six to eight kids that can play at a high level,'' Galloway said. "And that just means being able to function and do what they're able to do. If that's blocking, it's blocking. It could be running intermediate routes or it could be your vertical guy. It's a puzzle you have to put together.''White actually looks around and sees some of those pieces falling together."I'm a bigger receiver, K.J. [Myers] is more of a route runner, Mario [Alford] is real fast, [Thompson] is quick,'' White said. "Everybody's a little different. I think when we bring that together it'll be pretty good.''Don't be surprised, though, if White is the centerpiece."Physically, Kevin's what you look for,'' Galloway said. "He's big, tall, strong and he can run and compete. The sky's the limit for him. He'll be his own worst enemy if he doesn't get it figured out.''By all indications he has.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1