Neal Brown’s offense seemed to struggle throughout his debut 2019 season — but fans could find solace in the strong play from the squad’s wide receiver corps.
The Mountaineers got production from both veterans and new faces last season, and that was reflected in the team’s stats sheet. George Campbell led the team with 7 touchdowns on the season as a senior, while redshirt freshman Sam James topped the Mountaineers with 677 yards — both of which were top ten in the Big 12.
Campbell is now a New York Jet, but James will be back for his second season with West Virginia. He was one of four freshmen to nab a touchdown pass, including Ali Jennings, Bryce Ford-Wheaton and running back Tony Mathis.
In total, WVU freshmen amassed 1,183 yards and six touchdowns in 2019 — and all those contributors are on Neal Brown’s squad for 2020.
On top of the young talent, experienced vets like TJ Simmons will be back for another year. The Birmingham, Alabama native, who began his college career with the Crimson Tide before transferring to WVU in 2017, was the Mountaineers’ third-leading receiver last year with 455 yards and four touchdowns.
Sean Ryan will return for 2020 as well after starting six games and appearing in eight. He racked up 219 yards on 19 catches last season.
The Mountaineers did make one key addition that won’t make an appearance on the field. Gerad Parker was announced as the team’s new offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in January by way of Penn State. Neal Brown said after his hiring that he hopes Parker’s addition will make an “immediate impact” on his coaching staff.
Here is who the Mountaineers have coming back for 2020:
- Redshirt Sophomore from Richmond Hill, Georgia
- 6-0, 184 lbs
- As a freshman, James saw the most action out of any receiver on the team with 650 plays. He also set two single-game WVU freshman records when he caught 14 passes for 223 yards against Texas Tech.
- Redshirt Senior from Birmingham, Alabama
- 6-2, 201 lbs
- Simmons struggled at times to get production going last year, but when he was on, he was on. He peaked against Texas when he grabbed 7 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. In total, he had five games with at least five catches and 50 yards.
- Redshirt Sophomore from Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
- 6-3, 218 lbs
- Wheaton’s production peaked in two contests when he had three catches against Baylor and Texas Tech, but his most meaningful contribution came in the Mountaineers’ upset victory at Kansas State — he had just one catch, but it was the 50-yard pass that would put his team ahead for the late victory.
- Sophomore from Richmond, Virginia
- 6-1, 195 lbs
- Jennings brought critical depth to the Mountaineers’ receiving corps, seeing the third-highest number of snaps among WVU wideouts. He caught one touchdown in week two against NC State.
- Junior from Brooklyn, New York
- 6-3, 204 lbs
- Ryan appeared in eight games last season before sustaining a shoulder injury, causing him to miss the next four. He was still a key contributor for WVU in that span, though, getting a catch in seven of those games.
Other returners: Isaiah Esdale (r-Jr.), Winston Wright (So.), Freddie Brown (r-Fr.), Randy Fields Jr. (r-So.), Graeson Malashevich (r-Fr.)
Newcomers: Sam Brown (Fr.), Devell Washington (Fr.), Reese Smith (Fr.) Keion Wakefield (r-Sr.)
Departures: George Campbell (4 career starts)