MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For all the dynamics West Virginia’s Jovon Durante showed during the early portions of his freshman season, the remainder revealed too little stamina and too little academic progress.
Ineligible for the Cactus Bowl and subsequently suspended for spring semester, Durante has been reinstated this summer. Yet he’ll enter preseason camp facing a climb.
“Right now he’s not starting,” said coach Dana Holgorsen. “He’s been beat out by other people.”
With Durante providing a deep threat opposite Shelton Gibson, secondaries face a downfield quandary, because rarely can they shift safety help to both sides. This showed up in his opening five-game stretch, when Durante caught 18 passes for 264 yards.
Then came a steep decline over his final seven regular-season games: Just six receptions for 131 yards and a flurry of dropped passes.
“He was good early last year but faded,” said Holgorsen, noting how the 6-foot-1 Durante played at a spindly 155 pounds. “He was great for five weeks and then he was done for the rest of the year because his body couldn’t take it.
“But he’s up to 180 or 185 now.”
That serves as a cautionary tale for the newly arrived Steven Smothers, himself an electric 150-pounder who coaches want to see add weight before opening day. Smothers and other freshmen like spring-ball standout Marcus Simms also could look to Durante’s absence for lessons on prioritizing academics.
“Football’s very important to him—always has been—but you can’t just get by on that,” Holgorsen said. “It was probably good to take it from him for a while and show him it ain’t all about football.”
Through limited summer interactions, the coach said Durante worked himsef out of the doghouse and is “doing well academically and socially.” Still, the sophomore will be looking up the depth chart at the strong-handed Ka’Raun White, who enjoyed a 116-yard night in the Cactus Bowl and parlayed that into an impressive spring.
Durante may need the same kind of eye-opening camp he produced in 2015 when he became a rare true freshman to start.
“He’s not one of the four (receivers) everybody is talking about right now, which was on purpose,” Holgorsen said. “But that’s what August is for.”