WVU to count on new guys
MORGANTOWN -- On paper it looks as though the West Virginia University offense is in for a tough season.
With the likes of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and numerous other contributors from last football season gone thanks to graduation and the NFL, the Mountaineers lost a huge bulk of the production from a team that finished No. 10 in total offense.
But throughout preseason camp players who are stepping in to fill those roles made one message pretty clear: Just because these aren't familiar faces, it doesn't mean they can't make those same plays too.
"There's more depth. You can trust more people now," said red-shirt sophomore wide receiver K.J. Myers. "Those big names last year were the focal point, but we have a lot more weapons."
Myers is one of just a handful of receivers returning this season, and has just two catches for nine yards and a touchdown in his career.
But he, along with junior college transfer Kevin White, has emerged as one of the leaders among a deep group of receivers that had as many as 17 players taking reps during camp.
In that deep group of receivers, West Virginia has big and physical pass catchers, small and shifty guys and just about any other type of receiver one could think of. That's another asset Myers thinks could prove to be vital for the offense.
"I'm honestly just so overwhelmed right now," Myers said. "This is my third year here and I haven't seen this much depth on the offense yet, and it's great because it's better for us and better for the coaches because they can pretty much throw anybody in and they can make a play."
It's that depth that caught Florida State transfer Clint Trickett -- who is one of three quarterbacks fighting to earn the starting job -- by surprise.
Along with Myers and White, junior Mario Alford, sophomore Ronald Carswell and freshman Daikiel Shorts have all spent time with the first team offense during camp. Senior Ivan McCartney and sophomore Jordan Thompson are returning receivers who bring some experience to the group.
"I came here before the spring game, and I saw a little bit of it, but even then we didn't have all of the guys we have now," Trickett said. "Coach was like, 'This team's going to be a lot different than it is this spring.' I trusted him about that, and he was right."
Although there's plenty of depth at receiver, the most talent on the Mountaineer roster for 2013 could be in the backfield. West Virginia currently has five running backs who running backs coach JaJuan Seider is comfortable playing.
With University of Houston transfer Charles Sims and junior running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, the Mountaineers are one of the only teams in the country with three running backs who have run for more than 200 yards in an FBS game.
Sims has become known as one of the most versatile backs in the country after starting for three seasons at Houston. The 6-foot-1 back has run for 2,370 yards while also catching 158 passes for 1,707 yards.
Throw in big, bruising junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and shifty freshman Wendell Smallwood and West Virginia is ready to rely heavily on the talent it has in the backfield in 2013.
"There's great, quality depth here," Seider said. "I told the guys that this will be the toughest fall camp they'll ever go through, and I compare it to being in the NFL because every day you're competing for a job.
"It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a veteran, somebody's getting a paycheck and somebody's getting fired. So, what are you going to do? Are you going to sit back or are you going to fight for your job and your playing time?"