West Virginia's 2009 receiving corps is solid and deep, even as it lacks a physical playmaker of the sort it has had in the past -- Reggie Rembert, David Saunders or Chris Henry (much as we hate to evoke his name here).
Unlike in the past, WVU has a number of taller, bigger receivers, with most over six feet tall and 200 pounds. But don't worry; the Mountaineers still have a requisite number of waterbug receivers too.
If the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl victory over North Carolina, with its 332 yards of passing and three passing touchdowns, was any indication of the Mountaineer offense, the WVU wideouts will get a lot of work this season.
Starting on the outside will be senior Alric (ALE-rick, by the way) Arnett, last season's leader in yards, with 466. Arnett had two terrific touchdown catches in the Car Care Bowl and solidified his position in spring ball. Arnett, pictured above, caught a long touchdown from Jarrett Brown in Saturday's scrimmage.
On the other side is sophomore Bradley Starks, officially still the No. 2 quarterback. As Eugene Smith recovers from his ATV foot injury and continues to impress in August practice, the 6-foot-3 Starks is getting his reps at wide receiver. Stewart has said he believes Starks could be an NFL wide receiver. That surprised me, because the first time he did anything stood out as positive was in the Car Care Bowl when he outran single coverage to catch a long touchdown pass. Before that, Stark's last notable appearance was one he'd like to forget: fluttering a wounded duck pass 15 yards short of a wide-open Jock Sanders in the Colorado loss that probably would have won the game.
As the return leader in number of catches with 53 last year, junior Sanders had slot receiver all locked up. Until, of course, that is until his offseason DUI which kept him out of spring practice, enabling senior Wes Lyons to win the position. Wally Pipp, anyone?
Of course, there will be enough balls to go around and Sanders will get playing time at slot, spelling Lyons, and in the four-receiver set and backing up Noel Devine at running back.
It's hard to imagine an offense that can accommodate a 5-foot-7 slot (Sanders) and a 6-foot-8 slot (Lyons), but so be it. Besides, Lyons has been the easiest-to-hide 6-foot-8 guy in football for his entire career at WVU, either injured, laconic or clueless. His sole fame has come from delivering this block.
But now, he's evidently doing this.
Tight end is Tyler Urban's to lose. All he did last year was catch the first touchdown pass by a WVU tight end since, I believe, 2002, reawakening the position as a pass-catcher in the WVU offense. He's a natural talent and Stewart has proclaimed he'll one day be a "folk hero" at WVU. That's fine, but I'd prefer he hold onto more of the passes thrown his way. A couple of troubling drops last season. Backing up Urban will be another Tyler, Tyler Rader, the nephew of a buddy. I suppose you could say that when Tyler Urban gets spelled by Tyler Rader, Rader will be Tyler sub-Urban.
WVU has some promising freshmen that will likely get playing time. They include:
-- Top recruit Logan Heastie (HAY-stee), who enrolled in January, so he already has a spring practice under his belt. Heastie is 6-foot-2 and 195 and a fast learner. He was the teammate of former top quarterback recruit Tajh Boyd (thank goodness he got away). Heastie turns out to have a better head on his shoulders and stuck at WVU even after Boyd decommitted.
-- Tavon Austin is turning the most heads at August camp. He's Devine-sized and apparently Devine-fast and Devine-shifty. He'll get time behind Lyons and Sanders in the slot. He scored a touchdown on a reverse in Saturday's scrimmage. He'll also get return work.
-- J.D. Woods, a redshirt freshman, also a six-footer, will back up Arnett and Starks.
-- Stedman Bailey, 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, was Eugene Smith's high school teammate and is impressing in August practice.
-- And we can't conclude without mentioning this: Redshirt freshman Reggie Rembert, No. 88. Yes, that's the son of former WVU wide receiver Rembert, the star receiver on the undefeated 1988 team led by Major Harris. Li'l Reggie has his Dad's number and his position on the field, but, unfortunately, not his height. Dad clocked in at 6-foot-6. Son is 5-foot-7, 155 pounds, God love him.