Pressure on WR Thompson to recreate preseason success when games matter
MORGANTOWN — So many of West Virginia’s wide receivers have something to prove this fall, it’s hard to know where to start naming them.
At the top of the list are probably Kevin White and Mario Alford, junior college transfers who arrived last summer and contributed — they were third and fourth, respectively, on the team in receptions — but not to the extent either (or their coaches) would have liked.
There’s K.J. Myers and Devonte Mathis, Florida recruits who combined for just 18 catches last season and have yet to reach their potential. There’s Shelton Gibson and his considerable hype after sitting out last season as an academic casualty. Throw true freshmen Ricky Rogers and Lamar Parker in the mix, too.
Still, none seem to have more to prove than Jordan Thompson. He’s been a star-in-waiting for what seems an eternity, even though this is just his third season on campus. Perhaps it’s because he’s been built up so much and then failed to live up to those lofty expectations.
And, of course, Dana Holgorsen fully appreciates the irony and the danger of building him up again.
“Jordan Thompson is having his best camp,’’ the West Virginia coach said. “I feel silly saying that since he’s been Mr. Camp and Mr. Spring guy, but he’s playing at a different level than he has. He’s been great.’’
Indeed, Thompson has been a star already, but it has always been in preseason camp or in the spring. As a true freshman in 2012, Thompson enrolled early, went through spring and dazzled in August, then had 13 catches in 13 games. Ditto last summer, when he had a pretty good camp and then caught just 23 passes.
After Thompson caught six passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game of 2013, Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson both vowed not to talk about the shifty little receiver.
“He’ll go down in the history books as the greatest spring game player of all time,” Holgorsen said at the time. “But until he plays like that in a game, we’re going to call it like it is. I haven’t seen him play like that in a game yet. Until he does that in a game, we’re not going to talk about it.”
And so now the pressure is squarely on Thompson to live up to his own practice performances. He’s averaged six catches for 82 yards and scored four touchdowns in three spring games. In 23 real games, Thompson’s averages are 11/2 catches for 11 yards and he’s yet to score.
“I’m a lot different than I was when I got here,’’ said the 5-foot-8 Thompson, who is now listed at just 168 pounds but says he’s still nearly 25 pounds heavier than when he arrived from Katy, Texas, in January of 2012. “I’m more confident, too.’’
He needs to be at his best, of course, because the competition at the receiver spots is pretty intense. At the slot positions alone, where Thompson toils, he will fight for playing time with last year’s leading receiver, Daikiel Shorts, as well as Parker and Myers and several others. He will have to fight off most of the running back corps for playing time, too, because in an effort to get as many of those guys on the field as possible, the coaches will play them in the slot, too.
“That’s OK. I enjoy competition. I love competition,” Thompson said. “You can’t take a rep off. If you take a rep off, it could be that rep that keeps you from getting on the field.’’
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @dphickman1 on Twitter.