Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at each position group and giving our way-too-early depth chart projections. Today, we take a peek at the wide receivers.
Starter - Bryce Ford-Wheaton
Backups - Isaiah Esdale, Kaden Prather
Analysis: The Mountaineers are in really good shape when it comes to the X. There's no telling where true freshman Kaden Prather will end up but I'd be willing to bet he will land here and shadow Bryce Ford-Wheaton.
Isaiah Esdale has the strongest hands on the team according to Neal Brown which gives them the ability to move him inside to catch balls over the middle of the field. Regardless of where Esdale is on the field, I expect him to be someone Jarret Doege targets in crucial downs.
Ford-Wheaton has all the skills and ability to be one of the top receivers in the Big 12. It seems like it's time for him to blossom into that type of role this season.
Starter - Winston Wright Jr.
Backup - Sam James
Analysis: Winston Wright Jr. is going to be the guy to watch this season. His speed and elusiveness in the open field are what make him so dangerous. We've seen flashes of his explosiveness here and there throughout the past two seasons and with a more established role in the offense, he could be capable of a 1,000-yard season thanks to his ability to get yards after the catch.
Sam James burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2019 but really took a step back in 2020. He had trouble holding onto the football and you could tell it was starting to become a mental thing. The drops were playing with his head and he lost confidence in himself. If he regains that confidence, he can be a big-time playmaker in the Mountaineer offense.
Starter - Sean Ryan
Backup - Sam Brown
Analysis: To me, this will be the most interesting battle for a starting spot. Sean Ryan has more experience but the upside is much higher for Sam Brown. Brown came on strong at the end of last season, especially when he caught three passes for 42 yards in the bowl game vs Army. These two will likely split playing time right down the middle until one emerges as "the guy".
Starter - Reese Smith
Backup - Winston Wright Jr., Graeson Malashevich
Analysis: Reese Smith and Winston Wright Jr. are interchangeable. It wouldn't surprise me if Wright lands in the slot while Smith goes to the H. Smith hauled in 11 passes for 128 yards as a true freshman in 2020 and appeared to be a natural fit in the offense. His route running was very clean for a first-year player which is what stood out to me most, aside from his speed. A player with his skill set will be moved all over the field.
Graeson Malashevich is a walk-on that Neal Brown has been excited about since stepping foot in Morgantown. This spring, Malashevich was awarded the 2021 Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award which is given to a walk-on who has distinguished himself through his attitude and work ethic. He may not see much playing time on the offensive side of the ball but he will certainly have an impact on special teams.
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