It's time for new players to shine at West Virginia

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey left some big shoes to fill at West Virginia. The receiver tandem, now with the St. Louis Rams, combined for 37 of the Mountaineers' NCAA-leading 44 touchdown receptions last season.

Exit, too, quarterback Geno Smith and receiver J.D. Woods, who added four scores last fall, and the offense returns just 15 percent of its passing production and just three receivers with a single touchdown to their name at West Virginia.

So, when Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen jokingly asked his receivers earlier this month, "How are we going to score a point without three of the best players to ever play the game at West Virginia?" he was making a point: It's time for the next stars to emerge.

"The Big 12 lost a lot of receivers to the NFL last year," Holgorsen said at his Monday press conference. "There are some guys waiting in the wings, maturing and developing, we just don't know who those are yet."

Despite facing the uncertainty of which quarterback the Mountaineers will be breaking in this fall, the receivers don't lack in confidence.

K.J. Myers, a redshirt sophomore who made two catches for nine yards and a touchdown last season, is primed to step out of the shadows.

"I'm here to shock the world," Myers said. "A lot of people are sleeping on us, and a lot of people are sleeping on me. I plan on waking them up."

How?

"By putting up crazy numbers," Myers responded without hesitation. "Strive to break some records. Win games."

Perhaps the top prospect to emerge as the primary receiver target is Kevin White, a junior transfer from Lackawanna College whose dreadlocks, 6-foot-3 frame and No. 11 jersey have cast him as a bona fide Bruce Irvin doppelgänger in Morgantown.

White, who is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, had 36 receptions for 535 yards and six touchdowns in Lackawanna's run-heavy offense last fall. In the Big 12, a conference lacking in star power at wide receiver, White might be the most under-the-radar of them all.

"I wouldn't say there's pressure, because we're not going to be a Stedman Bailey or a Tavon Austin or a J.D. Woods," White said. "But you never know. We want to shock the world.

We've got a lot of talent."

Holgorsen highlighted both White and Myers as players with a "plus" mark next to their name throughout fall camp. Whether they'll be the solution come the season opener against William and Mary on Aug. 31 remains to be seen.

"There are going to be several guys in the Big 12 that step up and are going to be All American receiver type guys," Holgorsen said. "I don't now who they are. ... We've got some guys who are going to do it, we just don't know who they are yet."

White and Myers admit, grinning, that they are ready to move beyond the Austin and Bailey comparisons and stake claim of their own era. Their confidence, they claim, is fueled by being overlooked.

"It's a lot of fun," White said. "No one thinks we're going to have good receivers or a good team. When we come out, we plan to surprise a lot of people."

The Mountaineers offense scored 39.5 points per game last season, and Myers says it can be even better -- and more balanced -- this fall.

"You can't keep living in the past if you want to excel in the future," Myers said. "It's all about this year. No one knows what's going to happen this year. No one knows."

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Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.


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