ATLANTA — It’s been sunny and hot in Atlanta the last couple of days. Today, though — game day for WVU and Alabama — an afternoon thunderstorm might sneak in.
Likewise, Daikiel Shorts.
Or, rather he might sneak up on folks.
It’s crazy, really. Today’s 3:30 game has had many story lines, from Nick Saban’s Mountain State roots to the recovery of WVU’s Clint Trickett to the one-game suspension of Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest. In preseason Mountaineer camp, stories were written of new defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, the loss of cornerback Icky Banks and the emergence of running back Rushel Shell. Writers swarmed over receivers Mario Alford, Kevin White and Jordan “Squirt” Thompson.
All, it seemed, was covered but last season’s leading pass catcher by game average: Shorts.
“I didn’t pay any attention to that,” Shorts said in preparation for the Crimson Tide. “Mario and Kevin are great players. Squirt too.”
Don’t be surprised, however, if the 6-foot-1 sophomore Jersey kid gives his Mountaineers a fighting chance. As a true freshman, Shorts played in all 12 games and started in nine. He finished up with 495 receiving yards on 45 catches, an average of 11 per reception and 41.2 per game.
“I can catch the ball pretty well,” he said.
Shorts and the rest of the WVU receiving corps will need to inside the Georgia Dome. Alabama’s secondary struggled somewhat last season with two former wide receivers, Bradley Sylve and Cyrus Jones, at cornerback. The pair is again the Tide’s top corners, according to Saban’s depth chart. Most expected highly recruited freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey to overtake them.
“I just feel it’s a great opportunity,” Shorts said of the game in general. “I’m just excited.”
It’s certainly a chance for members of WVU’s heavy underdog team, especially Shorts.
As mentioned, he’s a New Jersey product who went to Eastern Christian Academy in Delaware. “The trip to Morgantown wasn’t too far,” Shorts said. “I went down and fell in love with the place.”
He especially did so after watching former WVU receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
“I watched them and knew they were leaving,” Shorts said. “I believed I had a shot to play right away if I came in early, which I did.”
Shorts said he remembers playing West Virginia on the EA NCAA computer game. “I’d be Pat White,” said the receiver. “I always liked fast quarterbacks.”
There was another appeal to signing with West Virginia and head coach Dana Holgorsen.
“The offense,” Shorts said.
That offense will be watched closely nationally today. In last season’s 4-8 campaign, for the first time in Holgorsen’s career, that offense took a face plant. Will it return to its former self?
Shorts said he believes so.
“We’re more confident,” Shorts said. “We’re more of a family. We’re going to try to make our fans happy and have some fun out there.”
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WVU football sports information director Mike Montoro said the Mountaineers arrived in Atlanta around 5 p.m. Friday and then had dinner and meetings.
Today, the team will leave the Renaissance Waverly hotel around 1 p.m. and conduct its walk through Mountaineer fans at the Georgia World Congress Center, where a “WVU Madness Party” will be ongoing. A large party was held Friday night for fans at the Park Tavern.
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And finally …
In case you’re unaware, there was not one but two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games held at the Georgia Dome — within a span of less than 36 hours. On Thursday night, Ole Miss defeated Boise State.
Before today’s game, trash was cleared, team signs were replaced, painted end zones were scrubbed and repainted — and more. Organizers estimated between the two games there would be 400 media members, 33 sponsors, 300 volunteers, 125,000 ticket holders and 212,500 square feet of activities to tend.
Perhaps for the organizers’ sanity, there isn’t another doubleheader scheduled here for the near future.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.