There weren’t many bright spots Saturday night in Norman, Oklahoma, for the visiting Mountaineers, but one was the continued growth of freshman wide receiver Traylon Ray.
Ray caught just two passes, though he was targetted seven times — the most of any West Virginia receiver. His two catches covered 56 yards total, including a 49-yard strike in the second quarter to set up WVU at the three-yard line.
The Tallahassee, Florida, native saw his most playing time of the year against the Sooners. Although fellow Tallahassee native Garrett Greene was unable to successfully connect with Ray after the 4:04 mark in the second quarter, Ray’s role within the offense continues to expand.
“I think he’s progressed really well,” said offensive coordinator Chad Scott. “He had a phenomenal fall camp, then he started battling some injuries, which slowed him at the beginning of the season. And then now he’s come on. He’s showing the ball skills that he showed all of us in fall camp.”
Ray nearly came down with a highlight-reel-worthy catch just before halftime. The first-year wideout caught the deep ball around the Sooners defender, who was blanketed on him, though his toes hit out of bounds before the rest of his right foot touched the red-painted grass in the Oklahoma end zone.
It was the third time in the first half that West Virginia aimed to get him the ball near paydirt.
Ray was one of West Virginia’s highest-rated recruits in the 2023 recruiting class. ESPN and On3 gave him a four-star rating, and 247Sports and Rivals each also viewed him as a top-100 wide receiver in the country.
A multi-sport athlete at North Florida Christian School, Ray was later arriving to Morgantown than most of the players in Neal Brown’s latest recruiting class. That meant he had some catching up to do in the summer and throughout fall camp.
“I had a little chip on my shoulder, so definitely starting and playing more than the average freshman is definitely a lot to take on,” Ray said. “I’m getting kind of used to it now. Coach [Bilal Marshall] is definitely helping me through it all. So, it’s definitely getting a lot easier.”
Ray has tallied nine of his 12 catches over the last five games. He has also accounted for all but seven of his 164 receiving yards, and the lone touchdown of his career, over that same time frame.
Even as a late arrival, it didn’t take long for Ray to realize he has what it takes to make it at the Power 5 level of college football.
“Fall camp, we had a scrimmage that was definitely the moment I knew I could play at this level,” he said. “That was when the confidence started to come out at this level. I always had confidence, but that’s when it definitely stuck out to me.”
There is still some catching up to do. Ray admitted he is still learning how to play as many snaps as he has gotten over the past few weeks. He is also still adjusting to the physicality of the college game. Strength may be one of the areas where he is still catching up to his competition, but it’s also an area he feels he’s made the biggest improvements since joining WVU.
“That’s a major factor in it, being with coach Mike [Joseph]. He’s helped me,” said Ray. “Sometimes, I don’t always like it, but he’s got me in a better position than I was when I first got here.”