By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Shannon Dawson, West Virginia University’s offensive coordinator, isn’t really a hard man to please.
Make his meatloaf warm and his beer cold and you’ve got his approval.
Even on the football field it isn’t much different, yet here he is, roughly two weeks from the Mountaineers Aug. 31 opener against William & Mary, and he’s not a happy camper.
The object of his scorn is his inside receivers.
“I’m not going to lie,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m pleased with the outside receivers. They’re making plays; they’re being physical. We need inside receivers to step up. It’s nothing I haven’t said to the group. It’s nothing that shouldn’t be known.
“We need inside receivers to step up and start pulling their weight. If they don’t, they won’t play. That’s the bottom line.”
In a way, the inside receivers had little chance to impress this season by comparison considering that they are trying to fill in for Tavon Austin, who may have been the most dynamic player in WVU history, but Dawson swears he’s not looking for another Austin, just a few good men who know how to play the game.
Exactly what is his issue with his inside receivers?
“I don’t know,” he answers, shaking his head.
This was more an “I don’t know” if I can understand how this is happening rather than an “I don’t know” what’s wrong.
“All I’m asking them to do is run fast, and they aren’t doing that. I want to see your feet and your hands moving fast,” Dawson said, that being a rather simple request. “If you run the wrong route and run it fast, I’d be the happiest person in the universe right now. ”
Actually, there is a bit more.
“If it’s a run play or a screen — block. Get on somebody and show some effort. I’m not even going to get into what they’re doing. It doesn’t even resemble blocking,” Dawson said.
In fact, Dawson isn’t sure they even need shoulder pads to go out and do what they are trying to pass off as blocking.
“I don’t know. Playing fast shouldn’t be hard. My brother has five kids and can get them out and they’ll run fast. That should be natural. You’re recruited because you can run fast. Well, run fast,” Dawson said.
The group is a young one that has also battled injury problems.
It begins with little Jordan Thompson, the star of the spring game but a player who always seems to be in the doghouse.
Promising Dante Campbell, a sophomore like Thompson, missed the spring and has fought injuries in camp, as has highly touted freshman Shelton Gibson.
Just breaking into the system are junior college transfers Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell, along with freshman Jacky Marcellus.
Redshirt freshman Vernon Davis sat out last season along with with Devonte Mathis.
So what does Dawson do?
“Ultimately, we are going to try to get the four best players on the field. If we feel the four best players are backed up somewhere, we’ll move them inside,” he said.
He’s done it before. J.D. Woods was running No. 3 at wide receiver but was one of the four best receivers on the team, so was moved inside to take advantage of his ability.
“It’ll have to be a guy that mentally we know can handle it,” Dawson said. “There are some guys that need to be put in one spot and that’s it, and there are some guys who we say, ‘Well, that kid, in talking to him and watching him, he probably has the mental capacity to move around a little bit.’ Those decisions are going to be made between now and the end of the week.
“If there is one of those guys we don’t have a problem moving outside to inside, we have to do it at this point because you don’t want to do it too late to where the guy isn’t given a fair opportunity to learn it. He has to have the mental capacity to do it, and I think we have a couple outside guys who do.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.