Ivan McCartney came to West Virginia in 2010 as a four-star wide receiver (per 247Sports) with plenty of hype to boot. When Dana Holgorsen came to Morgantown the following year as the offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting, McCartney began receiving comparisons to former Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon.
Those comparisons were premature and unfair. Under Holgorsen in 2010, Blackmon pulled in 1,782 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award. That same year, McCartney, then a freshman, caught just one pass for a mere four yards.
Still, the connection was made. McCartney is a cousin of former NFL receiver Chad Johnson and a former high school teammate of ex-Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith. The assumption was that McCartney was bound for greatness.
McCartney's numbers in 2011 were good: 49 catches for 585 yards and four touchdowns. But they also weren't close to the numbers put up by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, WVU's potent one-two punch at the receiver spot.
In 2012, McCartney's production dropped to nine catches for 112 yards. In November of that year, he left the team for what Holgorsen called "personal reasons." It seemed McCartney's time at WVU had come to a premature end.
But McCartney returned to the program six months later in May, and it seems he's making the most of his second chance. Holgorsen said Thursday during his weekly call-in show that the senior has changed his attitude and effort since coming back.
DH-I've been really proud of Ivan McCartney, his attitude has been really good, his effort is really good, I'm glad he's back with us #WVU— WVU IMG Sports (@WVUIMGSports) September 20, 2013
Holgorsen on @IMcCartney5 being team captain vs. Maryland after enthusiastic week: "He's practicing like it means something."— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) September 19, 2013
Those are things that were rarely said about McCartney in the past. It's starting to translate to success on the field as well. McCartney showed off that deep-threat ability in WVU's Week 3 win over Georgia State when he caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Ford Childress.
The vertical passing game had been lacking from the Mountaineers playbook at the start of the season. However, it's slowly starting to appear with Childress in the lineup along with McCartney and Ronald Carswell.
Just like an effective running game, a deep threat in the passing game can open up a lot of options on offense. It's all about balance. McCartney has a chance to be a big part of that if he keeps doing what Holgorsen says he's been doing.
Who knows how many catches or touchdowns McCartney will have in 2013. The important thing is he's apparently making the most of a second opportunity.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.