T.J. Simmons emerging as a primary target at receiver for West Virginia

West Virginia’s receiving corps hasn’t quite reached its perfect form, as seemingly everyone has dealt with a mild case of the drops at some point this season. But the unit is proving deep enough to overcome those individual lapses.

In every game, a different receiver manages to show himself as the guy quarterback Will Grier can trust the most.

Against Tennessee, David Sills and Gary Jennings were those guys. Each had more than 100 receiving yards. Against Youngstown State, Marcus Simms was Grier’s favorite target with eight catches while Jennings scored three touchdowns. Sills was the man against Kansas State with a trio of touchdowns, and Simms took over as top target at Texas Tech.

A fourth amigo stepped up against Kansas. T.J. Simmons, the sophomore transfer from Alabama, was Grier’s top target until a late 26-yard touchdown pass to Sills. Simmons finished the game with a career-high six catches for 53 yards, making physical moves after the catch.

“T.J. probably played the best out of all of those guys last week,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “He was pretty consistent and made some plays.”

Simmons was a one-hit wonder against Tennessee, catching a 59-yard touchdown on his only target. He has 14 catches for 227 yards through five games.

With Grier already able to do things most Big 12 quarterbacks don’t have in their arsenal, the development of another capable weapon only makes matters worse for opposing defenses.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Grier said. “All of these guys can make plays, and it’s my job to make the right reads and spread the ball around to get it in their hands.”

Last season, Grier distributed the ball into the hands of a lucky few. His top three targets – Jennings, Sills and Ka’Raun White – caught 74.1 percent of West Virginia’s total completions. White and Sills also accounted for 81 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns.

This year, Grier’s top three targets have a lower share of catches. Jennings, Sills and Simms have 82 of the Mountaineers’ 127 catches (64.5 percent). Whereas only five players caught touchdowns last year, 10 have crossed the goal line this season.

Much of that has to do with increased distribution to running backs and tight ends.  But it’s also more than that. West Virginia’s fifth and sixth receiving options, Tevin Bush and Dominique Maiden, are also guys Grier trusts.

“They’ve developed a lot from last year to this year,” Grier said. “Dom had a great game [against Kansas]. He blocked really well and had an important catch. He’ll continue to have a role in this offense. Tevin is really great in space. All of these guys know where to be.”

Holgorsen is as comfortable as he’s ever been about  depth at the position.

“I’ve been pleased with the backups. There have been plenty of years when I’ve been sitting here pulling what hair I have left out over [depth],” he said. “I feel better about those guys in general. The tight ends take one of those guys off the field a lot, so we don’t have to play four all the time. It makes it harder for us to game plan against when all of those guys are capable of making a play.”

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