Connor Arlia had seven catches for 43 yards last season. On a team that was full of offensive stars, that put him seventh among wide receivers. Of the receivers that have returned this spring, he is second.
That likely means more responsibility on the field for the junior, and it certainly means more responsibility in the locker room. If his teammates follow his example in terms of work ethic, they should be in good shape.
"Every day you have to come out and perform and work harder every day to get yourself better and the team better," said Arlia. "That's all I'm trying to do out there."
In fact, ask him almost anything about the upcoming season, and he'll tell you it boils down to hard work.
Like, for example, whether or not he has a different attitude coming into this spring compared to last spring. After all, he was buried in the depth chart due to the presence of players like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and J.D. Woods.
This year, he's one of the most experienced receivers and has an opportunity to earn a lot more than seven catches. That doesn't translate into a change in attitude, though.
"I don't know if it's different," Arlia said. "I know I'm looking for me to step up and make more plays, but I go into every situation just knowing that I have to give my all- every play, every snap. Whether there's ten guys in front of me or no guys in front of me, I've just got to go as hard as I can."
He has at least seen an increase in confidence. They may have only translated into 43 yards, but those minutes he earned on the field last year could prove very valuable this season.
Arlia's biggest game came against Oklahoma State. He caught three passes for 25 yards. It's not much, but it's more than a lot of this year's receivers can say about last year.
"I think that helps a lot," he said of last year's playing time. "It was a blessing and opportunity to go out there and play last year, and I've learned a lot just from the things I experienced last year- good things and bad things- and I just think I'm a more confident player."
Experience won't guarantee playing time, though. There aren't many receivers coming back, but there is competition. Jordan Thompson will return, and he's the only one back that earned more catches and yards than Arlia last year. Dante Campbell and KJ Myers are each back, too, and they both had a touchdown last season.
Plus, there's the addition of junior college receivers. All of those pieces combine to make a pretty good competition at receiver this spring. Of course, Arlia believes it will come down to working hard.
"We're all competing as hard as we can, and that's part of the process of getting better," Arlia said. "You've got to have that competition every day. We all respect each other, we're all so close, and we're just competing every day. We know that's what we have to go out there and do."
So far, he believes the spring has gone well. It's a limited sample size, but with Lonnie Galloway coaching the receivers, he thinks he's seeing improvement. He's certainly hard at work to find improvement.
"We're working hard," Arlia reiterated, "and Coach Galloway came in and he's taught us so much, and he's working hard. We only had like five practices, but I think the best thing is we're improving every day, making little steps every day, and learning a lot from films and just continuing to progress and get better every day."
It's great to see someone that is this dedicated to better himself and better the team. Arlia came to WVU from Weirton, and he's making the most of the opportunity to play football in Morgantown.
"It's such a blessing just to go out there on that field every day," he said, "and I thank God to be able to go out there and play the game that I love. That's the number one thing- it's fun. I have to remind my self every day- it's a game. We want to go out there and play as hard as we can every day."