MORGANTOWN-One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2014 season at West Virginia University doesn't surround who the starting quarterback will be when the Mountaineers take to the field to take on Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic on Saturday, Aug. 30. It doesn't even involve the defense.
The question revolves around the players who will be catching the passes from redshirt senior Clint Trickett, who was recently announced as the team's starting signal-caller heading into the fall, and whether or not they can become the playmakers that WVU's offense has missed since the departures of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL.
"I think we have some kids who are capable of making plays," wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway explained. "We saw signs of what some of them could do at times last year."
The problem was, however, they were just signs as no receiver eclipsed the 600-yard mark in yards and Kevin White's five touchdown receptions led the bunch. In fact, the team's total of 24 touchdown receptions fell one short of the 25 caught by Bailey in 2012 while the 3,148 receiving yards were more than 1,100 shy of the 4,292 established by that same 2012 team.
"It's a combination of trying to get everything," continued Galloway, a four-year letterwinner at Western Carolina. "You're supposed to be right here. Here's how you get there. You might have to create a little bit, but make sure you get to that spot."
Things that seemed to come naturally to Austin and Bailey, but have been proven difficult for their replacements-Daikiel Shorts, White, and Mario Alford.
"Having Mario, Daikiel and Kevin for a second year is good. They are more stronger, they know the plays, and they've been there and done that. They know what to expect. They've saw it on film."
Alford proved to be the most explosive of the trio finishing with 552 yards and two touchdowns on 27 receptions (20.4 ypc) while White proved to be the best around the goal line with five of his 35 catches (507 yards) ending up going for touchdowns. Shorts also showed moments of playmaking ability, finishing with 495 yards and a pair of touchdowns on a team-leading 45 catches.
"During the season, they are seeing it, but it's still fresh to them," added the coach. "It's still new so it's one of those things where having a season under their belts, having a spring under their belts. They've seen what we need to improve upon."
And the unit as a whole appears to be deeper with the improvement of junior K.J. Myers, sophomores Devonte Mathis and Chai Smith and freshman Ricky Rogers in the spring as well as the addition of Brandon Gibson, who had to sit out the entire 2013 season.
"It's been outstanding to be able to work with him (Gibson). Right now, we are just cleaning off a year's worth of rust. It's one thing to be here, but now he's part of the group and we are able to coach him up on the things that he needs to do to make us better."
And that means making plays.
"That (making plays) is always our number one goal. We talk to the kids every chance we get. They understand the importance of making something happen when they catch the football.
"But, the first thing they have to understand that they must do all of the little things right in order to put themselves in the position to make that catch. Once we get the consistency we want there, then you will see them make more plays."
Something every Mountaineer fan is looking to see more of in 2014.