MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU receiving corps looks completely different than it did a year ago. Its top four players at the position have moved on from the program, including Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James.
Of the 16 players listed at the position, 10 were on the team last season. Only two of them finished with double-digit catches and eclipsed 100 receiving yards on the year.
“I think everybody is kind of underselling our receiver crew a little bit,” head coach Neal Brown said. “I get it because the old way of doing things when you looked at preseason stuff is returning production. But the only returning production people count is the returning production on your team. We lost a high percentage.”
While the returning production is limited, WVU did add four transfers that all have starting experience and were among the top receivers at their respective schools.
Devin Carter (NC State), Noah Massey, (Angelo State), Ja’Shaun Poke (Kent State), and EJ Horton (Marshall) join true freshman Rodney Gallagher are the notable additions.
Brown said this is the most versatile group of receivers the program has had, and they are also collectively catching passes at a higher level.
“Devin Carter is a big, strong guy,” Brown said. “EJ Horton is an extremely fast guy. Ja’Shaun Poke is fast. Noah Massey who is just a big human that’s playing slot receiver. I like the different body types we have and the different styles. In these first two weeks of camp, we have to figure out their strengths and how we use them the best.”
WVU not only added productive players with starting experience, but it got some much-needed size, as well. Carter, 6-foot-3-inch and 214-pound pass catcher, finished with 117 catches for 1,895 yards and four touchdowns over four seasons with the Wolfpack.
Massey was the top catcher for the Rams last season with 52 receptions for 684 yards and four touchdowns. The season prior, he led the group with five scores. His size leads all WVU receivers at 6-foot-3-inches and 238 pounds.
Offensive coordinator Chad Scott said Massey’s body type is going to have its advantages, especially when it comes to blocking on the perimeter.
“We will play some teams where that nickel position they call spear is sometimes is a thicker body. Having the ability to put a guy there like Noah Massey that has good size but also good ball skills,” Scott said. “He can run routes and catch the ball but also be effective in the run game. That’s huge for us to have a guy like Massey.”
New faces also bring new opportunities. Brown said that has led to increased competition at the position which is something they haven’t had much of over the past few seasons with guys like Ford-Wheaton and James holding those top spots.
There can only be so much evaluation of the players in just helmets, so Brown said the next step of the competition is seeing how players handle contact. WVU started tackling on Tuesday, six practices into fall camp.