The Times West Virginian

Sports

August 29, 2013

WVU receivers show promise

MORGANTOWN — While all eyes have been focused on the gripping competition for the role of starting quarterback at West Virginia University, perhaps the most fascinating competition for jobs has been at wide receiver.

Indeed, if it seemed like a tall order to replace a quarterback in Geno Smith who threw for 4,205 yards, it was no less a difficult situation to replace Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods, who were on the receiving end of 289 of Smith’s 369 completions, accounting for 3,548 of those yards.

As last season ended, it appeared the cupboard was bare at receiver.

Where would a team that likes to use as many as eight receivers, often lining up four of them in a formation, find enough talented performers to make coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense go?

But now, just two days from Saturday’s noon kickoff against William & Mary, it would seem that Holgorsen found that rare receiver tree, gave it a good shake, and had bountiful harvest.

Oh, it took some finagling to put things together, and this group of receivers is now being led by two players with rather unbelievable stories to tell.

The first is the familiar face belonging to Ivan McCartney, who once was catching Geno Smith’s passes in high school along with Stedman Bailey, but who fell upon hard times last season and left the team for personal reasons.

Time at home gave McCartney the distance he needed to clear away the thoughts that had driven him to leave his teammates.

True, he knew he wasn’t being used as he wanted or expected, just nine catches all season, but he also came to realize that he had to bear the responsibility and, what’s more, come back and try to fill the void that had been created at outside receiver.

He returned a changed person.

“I’ve seen some differences in him. I think it matters a lot more to him now. Whatever issues he was dealing with last year, I don’t see him dealing with them this year,” Holgorsen said.

Part of it was the way he was handled upon his return.

His position coach again was Lonnie Galloway, who had been here in his first season before leaving for a couple of years after the Bill Stewart-to-Dana Holgorsen coaching change. The first thing Galloway did was sit him down and talk to him.

“I told him obviously it’s a new season. I know you. You know me. I recruited you. Let’s go. You’ve got one shot. Everything that happened last year, let’s forget about it. Let’s go forward.

“He’s done that. He’s moved forward and come out and competed,” Galloway said.

Like Holgorsen, Galloway has seen a different kid than the one he recruited into Morgantown.

“Obviously, he’s grown up, matured a lot. I was gone a couple of years and I don’t know what happened. I don’t care. Right now we need him to come in and have a role,” he said.

That role is the same one Bailey had. Can he be another Bailey?

“That’s hard to say,” Galloway said. “Stedman was a great athlete. Ivan is a great athlete, too. I’m not trying to compare Ivan to Stedman, but who’s to say? It would be great if he could, but we’ll let Ivan define his role after the season.”

Holgorsen, too, is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“Is he going to be a difference maker? We will see on Saturday,” he said. “He’s had a good camp and has been able to maintain relative health. Has he had some sore limbs over the last three weeks? Yes. Did it prevent him from practicing? No, which is different from what I’ve seen over the last few years.”

Perhaps more important than McCartney’s return and progress has been the development of Daikiel Shorts, a true freshman who came in an outside receiver and excelled so much that when Holgorsen became displeased with his inside receivers he moved there and saved the day.

“Shorts has really impressed me. He’s just a true freshman, but he’s really impressed me so he’s going to be one of the first ones to be trotted out there,” Holgorsen said.

Clint Trickett, battling for his own job at quarterback, has been overwhelmed by Shorts.

“Daikiel was a pleasant surprise for me when I got here. When I was looking to change schools I was looking at the receivers they had. I didn’t know about him then, but I do now,” he said.

So does Galloway, whose praise is lavish for someone who has yet to play a game for West Virginia.

“Since Daikiel got here in January, he’s been a godsend,” Galloway said. “He’s played way more mature than his age. He understands the game. He can play outside, and obviously he can play inside because we moved him inside.

“He does a lot of things right. You tell him one time, and he gets it.”

To Galloway, you throw away the calendar with him.

“If nothing happens before game time, he’ll be the first one to go out there. He is a smart, smart football player.”

Shorts, who comes out of Maryland, even has something in common with McCartney, whose cousin is Chad Ochocinco (Johnson).

Shorts’ brother, Anthony Gorrell, played corner at the University of New Hampshire. His cousin Tiquan Underwood plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Return to Mountain State exciting for new sports writer

    When I packed my belongings out of my Morgantown apartment in May, fresh with a journalism degree from West Virginia University, I thought I had ended a chapter of my life and closed the book on my experience inside the great Mountain State forever.
    It wasn’t until I received a phone call back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, from the Times West Virginian that the idea of a return to the area became a possibility. The opportunity to begin my professional career in an area that I’ve become comfortable with for the past several years was too good to pass by.

    July 29, 2014

  • Black Diamond.jpg Black Diamond Express looking to add elite players

     Travel sports are said to be the cream of the crop for young athletes.
    Generally, youth are selected to play on travel league teams based upon a heightened skill level or an ability that exceeds the everyday athlete.
    That’s what the Black Diamond Express softball team in Morgantown is looking for, along with a few new elite players.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers’ Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

    July 28, 2014

  • All tickets claimed for LeBron’s homecoming show

    LeBron James’ Ohio hometown says fans quickly claimed the thousands of tickets available for the homecoming event expected to be his first public appearance in the state since announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    July 28, 2014

  • FSU to hold Falcon Fantasy Camp

    Ever want to be a college football coach? Now you’ll have your chance thanks to Fairmont State University’s Falcon Fantasy Camp.

    July 28, 2014

  • Lawyer: Wife plotted to take over Sterling trust

    A lawyer argued Monday that the estranged wife of Donald Sterling plotted to strip his client from the family trust that owned the Los Angeles Clippers after the head of the NBA said she couldn’t negotiate a sale of the franchise unless she owned all the shares.

    July 28, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • Steelers’ Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings