Concerns Over Lack Of WR Depth Haunt WVU

West Virginia wide receiver David Sills V (13) scores on a touchdown pass as TCU cornerback Tony James (28) looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU won 31-24. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

MORGANTOWN — At a glance West Virginia’s passing attack appears to be among the best in the country — let alone the pass-happy Big 12.

But, anyone taking the time to do a deeper consideration of the Mountaineers’ air attack might come away with a few concerns.

Concerns which veteran coach Dana Holgorsen made note about during Tuesday’s weekly press conference.

“August 1,” Holgorsen said. “August 1. Can we go back? How many times do I need to complain about it. I think we have some good receivers. It needs to happen now. We needed it to happen two months ago. We are addressing it right now.”

A perusal of the Mountaineers’ receiving corps will give fans some comfort when you see juniors Gary Jennings Jr. (39-518, TD) and David Sills V (33-512, 9 TDs) ranked among the best pass catchers in the Big 12 and the country.

Look deeper and you will discover senior Ka’Raun White (23-347, 3 TD) is coming off of his first 100-yard performance of the season and sophomore Marcus Simms (11-243, 3 TDs) continues to provide WVU with that speed which can stretch a defense into breaking.

But, successful spread offensive attacks can play multiple players at the receiving slots giving its starters time to catch a breath while at the same time putting defenses on their heels trying to keep enough fresh defensive backs in the game to counter those substitutions.

That’s yet to occur with the 2017 edition in Morgantown.

“It’s been a lot of discussion,” assistant coach Tyron Carrier said. “A lot of discussion. We’ve got to have those guys step up.”

Guys like running backs Kennedy McKoy (4-32), Justin Crawford (3-24), Martell Pettaway (2-28) and Tevin Bush (2-10) have yet to show their pass-catching abilities on a consistent basis while primary backups Reggie Roberson Jr. (6-30, TD), Ricky Rogers (1-26), Druw Bowen (1-9), and Doninique Maiden (1-7) have yet to earn the confidence of starting quarterback Will Grier or offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

“It’s a long season and what we’ve been doing is when a receiver wears down we’ve been putting others in,” Spavital said. “But, it’s a confidence thing with Will. That’s a concern. Until they earn that, it’s hard to play them, especially in close games.”

That concern becomes critical on Saturday when No. 24 Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) invades Milan Puskar Stadium sporting a newfound defense and a running attack which has improved immensely since last year’s 48-17 loss to the Mountaineers.

“Coach (David) Gibbs has that defense playing really well right now,” Spavital said. “They are playing hard, they are playing fast and they are forcing turnovers.

“We are going to have to have some people step up and make plays that haven’t been making them because you can bet they will have an answer to Justin (Crawford), Gary (Jennings) and David (Sills).”

One of those players who have shown the ability to step up against the Red Raiders is sophomore running back Kennedy McKoy.

With Crawford, who leads the team in rushing with 562 yards and six touchdowns on 80 carries, somewhat bottled up, McKoy entered the game and blasted the TTU defense for 99 yards on only four touches.

“He is capable of doing that every time he touches the football,” assistant coach Tony Dews said. “He hasn’t done it yet, but it could happen any time. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if it happened this week.”

Of course, a strong running attack will go a long way in neutralizing a Tech pass rush which has accounted for eight sacks, seven interceptions and 26 tackles for loss.

“We are always looking for balance on offense,” Spavital said. “We want defenses to be on their heels wondering what we are going to do next. The worst thing you can be offensively is one-dimensional. Those are the offenses that struggle against aggressive defenses like Tech’s.”

West Virginia ranks No. 3 nationally in total offense (577.4 ypg), No. 6 in passing offense (364.2), No. 9 in scoring offense (43.8 ppg), No. 12 in kickoff returns (26.8), No. 13 in first down offense (141), No. 15 in passing efficiency (160.23), No. 21 in passing yards per completion and No. 29 in rushing offense (213.2).

∫ Saturday’s contest will be the seventh meeting between the two schools with WVU holding a 4-2 edge thanks to a three-game winning streak.

∫ WVU is 126-115-1 all time in nationally televised games.