MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Dissatisfied with the hustle of West Virginia’s inside receivers, Shannon Dawson has five walk-ons ready to step in.

So what if they’re his nieces and nephews.

Nearly two weeks into preseason camp and 17 days shy of the opening game, WVU’s offensive coordinator chided his slot receivers and warned he’s “getting impatient with those guys” after a string of poor practices. He didn’t call out individuals, but rather Dawson blistered with a broad brush—the first serious-sounding reprimand for a group that includes junior college transfer Mario Alford, four-star high school recruit Shelton Gibson, converted cornerback Vernon Davis, returnees Jordan Thompson and Devonte Mathis, and the currently injured Dante Campbell.

“They need to start understanding how to play football,” he said. “All I’m asking them to do is run fast and we can’t even get that down right now.

“Playing fast shouldn’t be hard. My brother’s got five kids and I can get them out there running full-speed. That should be natural. Run your route fast. I don’t care if you run the wrong route, I want to see your feet and your hands moving fast.”

“(The slot receivers) have had maximum opportunities and reps to do it right. They’re just lazy and they won’t do it, so whatever. We’ll find somebody who will.”                                 — WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson

That group owns a combined 15 Division I catches and just one touchdown, yet Dawson wouldn’t attribute the woes to inexperience.

And timid route-running is only part of his frustration. The coach—who oversaw receivers the past two seasons before shifting his focus to quarterbacks this spring—had reporters chuckling as he mocked slot receivers for whiffing on blocks that are crucial to executing screens and the running game.

“Our inside receivers, sometimes they don’t even need shoulder pads out there, the way they block,” Dawson bristled. “They need to get on somebody and show some effort. I’m not going to get into what we’re doing now—it doesn’t even resemble blocking.”

What irks Dawson even more is that the slot players aren’t typically asked to sustain blocks for long in WVU’s spread sets. With quick-hitting screens, Jet sweeps and zone runs coming their way, the inside receivers need only tie up defenders briefly.

“It’s going to take literally two seconds for the ball to get by you, so if you get beat late, you’re good. Just get your hands on them,” said Dawson, emphasizing that blocking is all about determination.

“Blocking is 100-percent effort. It’s probably the least-skilled thing we do. All you’ve got to do to be a good blocker is to go out there and fight your ass off. That’s it.”

Regardless of how the unit responds, Dawson said West Virginia has enough options it won’t move away from four-receiver sets. Coaches can always deploy fullback Cody Clay in the slot or shift a better-performing outside receiver to the inside.

“I’m pleased with the outside receivers, because they’re making plays, they’re being physical,” Dawson said. “We need our inside receivers to step up and start pulling their weight.

“They’ve had maximum opportunities and reps to do it right. They’re just lazy and they won’t do it, so whatever. We’ll find somebody who will.”

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  • johnathan d

    I don't understand the big deal over a coach being unsatisfied with a players work ethic. What does everyone want the guy to say everything is just dandy and let the kids get by with a subpar effort? They are there on scholarship and on our team they need to understand they were brought in to help us win and give a hundred percent not just go to frat party's and jog around practice. And to predict records this early s a science without testing until they have a few games under their belt we wont know what we have. The first game or scrimmage isn't going to tell a lot but come Oklahoma we will know a lot more and me for one think if your going to Oklahoma its best to go early they are replacing qb's and other positions too!

    • Bobby M

      Hey Friend! I kinda agree with you but on one hand I DO not! If its about anything more than anything else - it IS balance!

  • James

    This looks like a 6-6 team

  • johnathan d

    Easy fix put sims at the slot and let one of the other very able backs start.

  • wvrefugee

    I get so pi$$ed at these "wanna be" college coaches that promise kids big things and bring them here to Morgantown and then pi$$ all over them in the press!!! I got a better idea........ hey buddy, you brought these kids in here, you make them players!!!!! Dang!

  • Mountaineer fanatic

    It is almost time to play some football. I sure hope this team will be ready. It must be important to the players because it is very important to the fans. Come on guys. LETS GOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS

  • JimJim

    Sounds like the coach is setting us up for him failure. Also, blame the player.

  • ducks in a row

    “They need to start understanding how to play football,” he said. “All I’m asking them to do is run fast and we can’t even get that down right now.

    Sounds like a one night stay at a Liquinta might solve the problem.

    Seriously, I hope this isn't true about them being lazy. It just don't sound right for some reason.

  • Steve

    Let the walk ons have a chance. They can play. Heard they have some good ones. Walk ons play w heart.

  • ShinnstonGuy

    As we get closer to the season we begin to get the real quotes. I am glad the sugar-coating is ending.

    Aren't most collegiate and pro receivers divas? Perhaps they should watch footage of Hines Ward.

  • D.P.


  • frank

    Sounds like he has the fire

  • Wemakerain

    I bet he is trying to light a fire under these guys. On a more speculative note I heard a rumor that Arlia is not on the official roster, I hope that is not true

  • tw eagle

    if dawson isn't just blowing smoke , i'd expect holgerson to reshape his offensive attack to go to work without the slackers . . .they're certainly not short of experienced running backs , and dawson said here that some of the outside recievers might get moved inside . . .hopefully it's just 'smoke' and not six young men thinking they have to save their energy . . .energy savers usually have to be pulling splinters instead of showering after games . . .

  • john

    Now coach can you really tell us how you feel? :)

  • Kevin

    He's a straight shooter. I like him. But some of this, actually most of it, is coach speak. Have you EVER heard him praise anyone without coming right behind that statement with something to counter the praise? He may not be competely satisfied with what he has to work with at WR, but he makes it sound like he could pull 8 guys from any random single A school and be more competetive. Come on......

    • Bobby M

      How can he NOT be satisfied? I believe HE said we've got the DEEPEST teams he's ever seen! If I were a coach coaching the deepest team ever - I'd BE happy!