MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s receiving yardage leader for back-to-back seasons, Shelton Gibson joined the list of underclassmen entering the NFL draft.
A 6-foot redshirt junior who remains the top-rated offensive recruit during Dana Holgorsen’s six-year tenure, and arguably the fastest player on the roster, announced his intentions Wednesday on social media.
“After many emotional talks with God, family, coaches and teammates, I have decided to enter the 2017 NFL draft,” Gibson posted.
“Even with favorable feedback from the NFL, I understand that nothing in football comes easy and everything will be earned. This is the case whether it was this year or next. I’m mentally and physically prepared to give 200% to be the absolute best player I can be.”
Gibson’s departure, combined with the graduation of Daikiel Shorts (63 catches for 894 yards and five scores), means West Virginia’s receiving unit loses 61 percent of its receptions, 53 percent of its yardage, and 56 percent of its touchdowns.
That mitigates some of the building excitement over next year’s passing game, centered around the emergence of Florida transfer Will Grier, but there are quality returnees. Ka’Raun White, Marcus Simms and Gary Jennings provide a solid group on the outside, now bolstered by the second coming of David Sills. In the slot, junior Jovon Durante will be backed by mighty-mites Steven Smothers and incoming commitment Mike Harley.
Rivals rated Gibson the nation’s No. 129th overall prospect in 2013, when he chose the Mountaineers over Ohio State, Pitt, Tennessee, Auburn and Louisville. The native of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, joined WVU the same year as Shorts and future Chicago Bears first-rounder Kevin White.
Forced to sit out his first season as an NCAA partial qualifier, Gibson made only four catches for 60 yards as a redshirt freshman before accelerating the past two years.
During 2015 he caught 37 passes for 887 yards and nine touchdowns, ranking second nationally with nearly 24 yards per catch.
This past season, working to become a better intermediate option, Gibson finished just shy of his 1,000-yard goal, making 43 receptions for 951 yards and eight touchdowns.
Still, his deep-threat speed remained a scary proposition for secondaries, and Gibson became more adept at tougher catches — none more contested than his 52-yarder with his helmet being tugged off by Kansas State’s D.J. Reed.