High School Football

Shelton Gibson on missed connections downfield: ‘That’s on me’

West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson (1) makes a catch and move around Iowa State defensive back Sam E. Richardson (4) to score during their November game at Milan Puskar Stadium.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There’s a bowl game wedged between now and the offseason Shelton Gibson expects to define him. And if one didn’t know better, one might think the receiver is more excited about the winter weightroom workouts and behind-the-scenes pass-catching sessions than he is about playing on ESPN on Jan. 2.

“I’m going to have to do way more offseason work than I’ve done before,” admitted Gibson, who leads West Virginia receivers in yards (744) and touchdowns (eight) by a wide margin, but blames himself for the margin between a decent season and one that’s elite.

More than the 33 catches he made, Gibson fixates on the big plays he didn’t. He quickly lists two downfield opportunities against Oklahoma State, another at Baylor, a dropped bomb at TCU and the self-criticism could’ve continued.

“I know that I messed up this year so I’ve got to take responsibility,” he said. “Playmakers have got to make plays, so that’s on me.”

During the second half of the regular season, Gibson became marginalized. Outside of a six-catch 148-yard day against Iowa State, his combined output in five games against TCU, Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas and K-State was only four catches for 56 yards.

“I didn’t prepare last offseason like I should have so that I could go out there and finish like I should have,” he said.

Given the instability of West Virginia’s pass game, nearly every receiver in the rotation endured spikes and droughts. Yet Gibson rarely factored on possession downs. Of West Virginia’s 209 third- and fourth-down attempts this season, he made catches on only eight.

His proposed remedy? Devoting work to intermediate routes by catching passes from whatever quarterback is available and the Jugs machine when a live arm isn’t around. Those hours and reps are meant to mimic the commitment displayed by the likes of former pack leaders Will Clark, Kevin White and Karl Joseph.

Gibson is no longer content to merely marvel at team leaders. “I should be the one doing the same thing.”

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