Sam James Looks to Drop the Drops This Saturday at Texas Tech
West Virginia has produced some high-level play at receiver over the last decade. The previous batch of upperclassmen graduated out of the program following the 2018 season, but in came a new group of receivers ready to leave their legacy on the program.
Redshirt sophomore receiver Sam James watched David Sills and Gary Jennings combine for 1,903 yards and 28 touchdowns during their senior season.
James got his opportunity early as a Mountaineer last season, setting the freshman record in receptions (69) and yards (677) as the “go-to” receiver. Yet, the numbers could have been better.
He struggled last season with dropped passes, and he noted that the main issue was taking his eye off the ball and looking upfield to make a play before securing the ball.
A lot of optimism surrounded James heading into the season with a year under his belt, but his progression may have stalled after spring practice was canceled due to the pandemic, and split practices to begin offseason workouts even into the first week of fall camp.
Dropped passes have been an issue to start the season across the board, and it fully reared its ugly head last week in the 38-17 win over Kansas, where James had three dropped passes in the first half. By my count, the team as a whole had six dropped passes in that span. The coaches’ number, on the other hand, may have been higher.
“It is an issue that we can’t let be an issue,” said co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Gerad Parker. “So, the response to a drop is two things. During the game, you got to have a trigger that allows your body to get back to finding some fundamental issues of why you dropped it or having a trigger not to go there again.”
James made his way back onto the field, and the staff called his number on a quick pass. He hauled it in and off a beautiful block by tight end Mike O’laughlin, James was able to tiptoe his way down the sideline for a touchdown as the Mountaineers started to pull away.
“We have all been there. Somehow, someway everyone of us have been there,” said Parker. “If you think about it, we live in a pretty cynical world, unfortunately at times and so, what do we do?
“Do you lose faith and teach a kid how to fail, and fail and just be tossed to the side? Or do you teach a kid how to stand tall, face it when everyone probably wants him to sit? Or trust the fact that Sam James is a good player, who went through a tough time in the first quarter and a half, and we got to do something to stand by the kid or what’s he going to stand for later in life?
“It’s a fine line too. He’s also got to be a productive player, and he knows that, but I think for him to stay with it and figure it out and have that piece of success then, it is going to help him later. And for us to find a way to get us through it and give guys the right to make plays, and also stand by our guys, whether it be him or anyone else, is crucial, not only in football but in life. So, it’s a valuable lesson for all of us, and we’re going to continue to grow together, support our players and believe in them regardless of results first, and then I bet in the long run we’ll be better for it both as men and players.”
As far as fixing the problem, the first solution is always to get on the jug machines, and while everyone agrees that will help, there’s more than just sitting in one spot and catching the football. For Parker, it’s about, “How many catches can we create that are game-like that build confidence for the right reasons that allow him to know that he’s going to catch the football when it matters most? I think it’s going back to work, but it's also creating game-like catches, so you build real estate in your mind to where one doesn’t turn into two.”
Sam James will have an opportunity to bounce back this Saturday as the Mountaineers travel to Lubbock, TX to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 5:30 EST on ESPN2.