MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ever since redshirt freshman Hudson Clement exploded for three touchdown receptions against Duquesne, the WVU wide receiver rotation has seen various tweaks in an effort to ride the hot hand.
Prior to last week’s 41-39 loss to Houston, head coach Neal Brown made a slight – and on the surface level, unorthodox – change by moving redshirt senior receiver Devin Carter to the slot after he previously played four games on the outside.
Carter played his best game as a Mountaineer because of it.
“It was different,” he said. “It makes you think a little bit more. It was good. It’s good to get that opportunity to play both sides and to move around so the defense can’t really have just [one] set plan for you.”
He hauled in a pair of 21-yard catches and a 49-yarder en route to a 119-yard showing (season-high) on five receptions. Coming into the Houston game, he logged five receptions of 15-plus yards all season. He had four against the Cougars alone.
“And he probably left 60 yards out on the field,” Brown said.
At 6-foot-3-inches and 215 pounds, Carter can present matchup problems for defensive backs and linebackers alike. The semi-positional change was about putting him in more favorable matchups at the line of scrimmage, with the hope being that his defender in man-coverage provides a cushion.
At multiple points Thursday, Carter found himself wide-open in space.
“He’ll play both inside and outside, but I just wanted to get him some more free runs off the ball,” Brown said. “I wanted to be able to play him on both sides, and there [were] a couple things in the run game I thought he could help us on too [by] getting him closer to it. Both our slots we had been playing are smaller, so I wanted to get bigger at that [position], and he’s smart too so I thought he could handle it. We worked on it a little in the bye week, and we’re going to continue to do that. I thought that was positive for him, and we can grow his role in that.”
Carter’s two best performances of the season (Penn State, Houston) both came when he and junior quarterback Garrett Greene were both on the field at their healthiest. Carter missed the Duquesne game with an injury, and the following week, Greene injured his ankle in the first quarter of the Pitt game.
Greene and Carter both played against TCU, but Greene’s ability to use his legs was in question leading up to the game. With the Houston game coming off an idle week, they were both as healthy as they could be, and Brown and co. started to build a game plan around Greene and Carter.
For the first time all season, Greene dominated with his arm, and Carter was the difference.
“[Carter has] had a tremendous attitude this entire season up to this point, even though he didn’t have the success he wanted to have until the game last week,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “His attitude and his confidence that he exuberated last week in practice was really good, and that trickled down to those younger guys, and those younger guys had a great week of practice too.”
Now at the official halfway point of the season, Carter is the No. 2 receiver on the team with 257 yards and two touchdowns. Only Clement (298 yards, four touchdowns) has more yards and scores than the NC State transfer.
If Carter can replicate Thursday’s performance, he will sit at the top of that list in no time.
“I think he can build off that,” Brown said. “I really do, and we need him to have those types of games, too. Our pass game, that was by far the best it’s looked. We kind of opened it up too, but he made a lot of that stuff happen.”