The West Virginia Mountaineers are nearly halfway done with the 2013 season, but question marks still surround the team. From the quarterback situation, to special team woes, to a missing link in the receiving corps, the Mountaineers are still searching for answers.
Prior to that first game on August 31 against William and Mary, Jordan Thompson was expected to be the biggest receiving threat for Dana Holgorsen's offense. He was seen as the only true returning player from a year ago and had hype surrounding his speed and quickness once he's in space. After catching six balls for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the Spring Game earlier this year, that hype wasn't without reason.
Now, as the season breaks into October, Thompson is no where to be found. Just about all the action he receives is when he's fielding punts, but even when he does that he's making noise in all the wrong ways.
The Mountaineers rank in the bottom 20 nationally in both kick and punt returns. While the team averages four yards per return on punts, Thompson himself isn't even putting up a positive average. He has three punt returns this year for a total of -3 yards. It's clear Thompson is struggling with his role on special teams, but he's not putting his head down just yet.
"It has been a learning experience," Thompson said earlier this week. "I never really had a main role as a punt returner, but it is just a process. I am getting more comfortable being back there to catch punts. Now, it is about getting more reps so I can become more comfortable during returns."
Special teams is one thing, but it's no secret West Virginia's offense is struggling. As the team continues to search for a stable option at quarterback, the offense is No. 57 in the country in passing/receiving yards per game.
"Squirt" has plenty of potential and has a place on this team. Just last week against Oklahoma State he showed fans he can catch a ball with a huge play on third down late in the fourth quarter. If Thompson doesn't bring down the ball, the Mountaineers may have never defeated No. 11 Oklahoma State.
"I think it is something that will continue to happen. As a receiver, Coach Holgorsen expects us to make big plays in crucial situations," he said. "On that play, I made a good catch, but as soon as I caught it, I knew I had to get lined up, because coach likes the tempo."
Ronald Carswell, Daikel Shorts, and even Charles Sims out of the backfield are the players receiving the most action in the passing game. From a year ago, the offense is still finding a new identity with the new personnel. The young receiving corps has plenty of open field in front of them for the years to come, but 2013 is running out.
Jordan Thompson continues to be a mystery. It seems clear that at this point, he doesn't factor much into Dana Holgorsen's game plan. Daikel Shorts is the same style receiver but is receiving much more attention out of the slot.
The hope for Thompson is Holgorsen will continue to line up four receivers out wide on a consistent basis. As long as Thompson is on the field, he has a chance. And as long as he's making plays as he did against Oklahoma State, his quarterbacks trust in him will continue to grow.
For now, Thompson remains a work in progress. His special teams work will be the most of his opportunity but with consistency at quarterback his offensive work could increase. One thing is for sure, with another top 25 match-up coming against Baylor, mistakes won't be affordable for Thompson and the West Virginia Mountaineers.
*All quotations included in this article are courtesty of WVUsports.com.
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