West Virginia quarterback Will Grier has thrown touchdowns to 10 receivers this season, a huge leap from the five that caught scores a year ago.
The wide receivers are deeper and the tight ends are a bigger part of the offense — and Grier has simply been better than he was last season. But perhaps the biggest evidence of versatility is the running backs creeping out of the backfield.
Three running backs have caught touchdowns this season, and it could’ve been four had Grier not overthrown Alec Sinkfield on a wheel route against Tennessee.
Not only have they caught touchdowns, but they’ve been wide-open in the process.
“That’s probably the biggest difference scheme-wise,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “They have to account for those backs.
“We flipped it out there in the flat twice last week and scored. You have to cover everybody. That makes it hard for everybody to defend us.”
Kennedy McKoy, on his first snap of the season in the third quarter against the Vols, scooted out to the flat and no one followed him as he caught an easy score.
Last week against Kansas as Holgorsen referenced, Leddie Brown also bounced to the perimeter and outran Kansas defenders to the pylon. In the third quarter, Martell Pettaway didn’t have to outrun anybody, as no Jayhawks followed him out of the backfield on a wheel route.
“They do a great job, they are great athletes, so they get out of the backfield and catch the ball really well,” Grier said. “It’s another level to our offense — we want to be multiple and that adds something to it. We trust those guys to not only run the ball between the tackles but also get out in space and make plays. I’m really happy with where that group is at as a whole.”
Sinkfield, arguably the team’s best pass-catcher out of the backfield, hasn’t played since Week 2 against Youngstown State.
While the yardage hasn’t been anything to write home about — 78 yards on 11 catches — it adds another element in the red zone.
With the reputation of the WVU receivers, missing a running back slipping out of the backfield can torture opposing defenses, according to McKoy.
“A lot of it is credit to the receivers drawing attention in the red zone where we like to run those swing or wheel routes,” he said. “Another half of it is with play-calling. Coach [Jake Spavital] has been putting us in the right situation when the defense lines up in a favorable situation for us. We know we’re gonna be in a good spot to run that type of play.”
Pettaway, known for his between the tackles approach, is happy with the way the coaching staff is using their different skill sets regardless of the situation.
“Oh yeah, you know, whatever works,” he said. “You’ve gotta be versatile in this day and age at running back — running the ball and catching the ball. I really like the way they’re using us.”