MORGANTOWN - West Virginia's football team has not practiced once since the annual Gold/Blue Scrimmage in late April. But, that doesn't mean the Mountaineers haven't continued to work to get better.
One major improvement occurred, not on the artificial surface at Milan Puskar Stadium, but in the classroom where redshirt freshman Shelton Gibson finished the spring semester with a 3.0 grade point average and earned his eligibility for the upcoming season.
"I was proud of Shelton (Gibson) with the way he responded in the classroom," fourth year head coach Dana Holgorsen said during his recent visit to Parkersburg as part of the Mountaineer Athletic Club's Coaches Caravan at JP Henry's Restaurant. "He got over a 3.0 this semester and I'm looking forward to working with him for the first time in June and, obviously, getting to coach him on the field in August."
Gibson, who played three seasons for head coach Jeff Rotsky at Cleveland Heights High School, hasn't seen live action since competing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following a senior season where he finished with more than 700 receiving yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
"We recruited him for a reason," added Holgorsen. "He was a high-profile recruit. He has great speed and playmaking ability. The more of those guys you have the better."
WVU had some during last year's 4-8 campaign, but not enough. Especially at the receiver positions.
"Well, we haven't been able to practice him, so I reserve judgement on each and every one of our guys until we can actually coach those guys. But, you can never have enough playmakers on your team and adding a Shelton Gibson can only make our receiving corps stronger."
The Mountaineers' cupboard isn't exactly empty at the wideout position with the return of four of the team's top five pass catchers.
Sophomore Daikiel Shorts leads the list of returnees with 45 catches for 495 yards and two touchdowns in his first taste of D-I action. Joining him will be junior college transfers Kevin White (35 catches, 507 yards, 5 TD) and Mario Alford (27-552, 2 TD) and junior-to-be Jordan Thompson (23-178, 0 TD).
Also returning are Devonte Mathis, Vernon Davis and K.J. Myers while Chai Smith, Jacky Marcellus and Ricky Rogers used the spring to move themselves up the depth chart.
Another player that could add a new dimension to the Mountaineer passing attack is sophomore Wendell Smallwood. The team's third leading rusher last fall (39-221, 1 TD) displayed a great deal of playmaking ability while being used as a slot receiver in the spring.
But Gibson, who received offers from Arkansas, Auburn, California, Duke, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, NC State, Ohio State, Pitt, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, can also help the Mountaineers' kickoff and punt return teams-ranked among the worst in the Big 12 in 2013.
"The summer is going to be very important for him," said Holgorsen. "It will be important for him to get with the other receivers and our quarterbacks so that they can develop some chemistry before we start practice in August.
"He's had a year to watch the offense. Now, we'll be able to see just how much he has learned and see just where he can help us get better."