This week we're highlighting the make-or-break position battles for every program in the Big 12. We kick off the series with West Virginia's receiver battle.
Here's where the battle stands midway through preseason camp:
What happened last season: Kevin White and Mario Alford combined for 174 receptions, 2,392 yards and 23 touchdowns last season as the Mountaineers’ top two receiving targets. White’s amazing ball skills and NFL talent combined with Alford’s blazing speed and quickness was a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Both receivers became NFL draft picks.
Shorts and Thompson played secondary roles as the No. 3 and No. 4 targets. Thompson had 49 receptions for 598 yards and two touchdowns while Shorts added 24 receptions for 346 yards and two scores.
Gibson saw significant action on special teams, emerging as a kick return threat alongside Alford late in the season.
What they offer: Shorts brings the ability to play any position in Dana Holgorsen’s offense. The junior can line up on the inside or outside and has been a contributor since his freshman season. Thompson is a quick inside receiver who can create havoc in the middle of the field. But will either guy step up to become “The man” for the offense?
Gibson is hungry for a bigger role and has the speed and elusiveness to excel with more opportunities. The sophomore will have to grow and mature if he hopes to be a main target.
The newcomers -- White, Durante and Jennings -- have impressed in fall camp with Holgorsen stating neither freshman will redshirt. White, Kevin White’s little brother, has similar athleticism as his older brother. Durante, who is talking over Alford’s No. 5 jersey, brings quickness and big-play ability. Jennings brings excellent size and strength. The Mountaineers feel a lot better about the prospects at receiver with the arrival of this trio.
The prospectus at the position has improved with the arrival of White, Durante and Jennings. Quarterback William Crest, who saw time at receiver during the spring, is spending more time at quarterback this preseason, in part because of the arrival and emergence of the new receivers.
Prediction: Shorts and Thompson will be solid with Gibson flashing his talent at various times in 2015. Durante, White and Jennings will make significant impacts but their inexperience will show on occasion, preventing them from becoming consistent game-changing threats. It will be a productive but somewhat inconsistent group. The end result will be a deeper group of receivers with no legit No. 1 target in the mold of Kevin White.