Mountaineers receivers hope maturity and growth intersect

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
West Virginia's passing game is a curious mixture of maturity and potential.

Rarely do you find a group of veteran players with so much room left for growth. But such is the case with these particular Mountaineers.

Consider that the team's leading returning receiver (other than the currently-suspended Jock Sanders) is Alric Arnett, a fifth-year senior. But Arnett played two years in junior college, was redshirted in 2007 because of a thumb injury and has 35 career Division I catches, all of them coming last year.

The other starting wideout is Bradley Starks, a third-year sophomore who showed signs of becoming a special player last season. But Starks has spent most of his career at quarterback and may even serve as the backup there again this year.

Then there's new starting slot man Wes Lyons, another senior. He's the walking definition of potential with his 6-foot-8 frame and athleticism. Yet injuries have slowed him throughout a heretofore undistinguished college career.

And don't forget the guy who's throwing to them: fifth-year senior Jarrett Brown, who's spent his entire career backing up Pat White and has only two starts to his name.

"We do have a lot of experience and a lot of mature players," Lyons said. "But I think we can get a lot better."

Adding to the potential for bigger things is West Virginia's plan to feature more of a passing-based attack this season. Receivers won't just be asked to block as the quarterback or tailback run downfield. The Mountaineers will play more like they did in the Meineke Car Care Bowl win over North Carolina, when White passed for 332 yards, Arnett had seven catches for 93 yards and two scores and Starks added four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Lyons was the biggest revelation during spring practice, excelling at his new slot position and looking like he was finally ready to bust out with a huge year. He was the talk of the coaching staff this spring.

"I plan to keep working hard through the summer and keep getting better as a player," he said. "Even before everybody was talking about me, I already knew what I could do. I'm already confident, and as long as I'm confident in myself, I'll be fine."

This summer looms as an important time for Brown and his receivers. They all know the playbook now as opposed to last year when they were still digesting second-year offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's schemes. Now is the time to build chemistry and get used to one another if they are to make this passing game really click in the fall.

"I feel like it's forming right now," Lyons said, "but there's always room for improvement."

Even among such veteran players.