The West Virginia Mountaineers put together one of the most potent passing attacks in all of college football last season thanks to a dynamic duo at wide receiver. The combination of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey along with quarterback Geno Smith were a lethal combination that came together to rank as the No. 10 passing offense in the country in 2012. All of that is gone heading into 2013, however, as that trio moves on to ply their trade for the NFL. So who will step up in their place at receiver?
Head coach Dana Holgorsen is anxious to find out. In all, the Mountaineers lose 224 receptions and 2,941 yards to go along with 27 receiving touchdowns with the departure of Austin and Bailey. Also gone is the team’s third leading receiver, J.D. Woods, who graduated after catching 61 passes for 637 yards with four touchdowns in his senior season. No receiver back on the roster for next fall caught more than 13 passes a years ago, so the lack of experience will be a problem.
That void at receiver has opened the door for some unlikely candidates to step up this spring. Connor Arlia caught just seven passes for 43 yards last season but looks like the most experienced option that West Virginia has for next season. The junior has been forced into a leadership role by the mass exodus at the top of their depth chart. He caught four passes for 39 yards during the spring game as one of the few standouts on the offense, but will need to do a lot more to carry the load next season.
There is also the familiar story of Jordan Thompson, who has exploded each of the last two springs now, but fell completely flat during the season and was a non-factor in the West Virginia gameplan in 2012. The team hopes that he has turned the corner and will be able to translate his spring dominance into solid contributions during the fall, but Holgorsen won’t count on that until it happens.
The most encouraging contribution out of the spring may have come from JUCO transfer Kevin White who grabbed five catches for 72 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound wide out has the big body of an outside receiver that West Virginia is desperate for in 2013. He’s quickly developed a nice rapport with the quarterbacks as well, which should help him find a role next fall.
There’s no question that the Mountaineers will struggle to replace the monumental talents of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey next season, but can a combination of inexperienced and untested receivers come close in 2013?