As most of us know, senior outside receiver from Unionville, VA, Brad Starks was originally recruited as a dual-threat quarterback for Rich Rodriguez's spread offense (only for them to leave after Starks' redshirt season). But, with Pat White and Jarrett Brown ahead of him on the depth chart, the new coaches felt his athleticism was too good to be wasted on the bench and the switch to receiver was made.
Flashes of that athleticism were apparent with Starks at the receiver position with his size, speed and jumping ability. Yet, nagging injuries and a sputtering offense under Jeff Mullen seemed to limit his effectiveness during his first three years with the team. Despite that, when he did catch or run the ball, he averaged 13.5 yards per touch (rushes and catches combined). Enter Dana Holgorsen and his wide open offense known for putting up huge offensive numbers and creating household names at receiver. The sky was seemingly the limit and expectations on Starks were high, given his abilities and experience.
Spring drills rolled around and Starks was doing seemingly well in the new system when the injury bug reared its ugly head once again. Only this time, surgery was required on his shoulder and he would be out until sometime just before or during fall camp.
With training camp ongoing, the press would sometimes ask Holgorsen about Starks' progress, only to be met with this answer:
Holgorsen cracked that he thought the senior was "getting good at riding the bike,'' referring to the stationary bikes injured players ride during practice.
As camp finished up Starks found himself down a few notches on the depth chart from where he was used to being, but took the criticism and coaching in stride and is working his way back into the rotation of receivers as well as being trusted to be one of the deep return men on kickoffs recently. To paraphrase several of the beat writers, Starks had to earn the trust of the new coaching staff and that simply wasn't happening while he wasn't practicing.
Coach Daron Roberts had this to say about his recent increased role:
"We've had conversations with him and said, 'Look, it's all about trust with us. We can't put you into a critical situation or position until we feel that we can trust you,' " Roberts said. "And to his credit, we were very hard on him because we felt like he was an upperclassman who could take it and he withstood a lot of criticism and a lot of hard coaching. He's really done well for us and he's going to continue to get chances to play."
Despite his limited action thus far this season, Starks has already managed 3 touchdowns through six games when his previous season high was only 5 last year (1 rushing) in 13 games. I think we can expect Starks to continue to progress in this offense and become a consistent deep threat for the Mountaineers when he's on the field. Being trusted with kickoff return duty is a sure sign that he now has the trust he previously lacked from the new coaches. And now that the trust is there, Starks can focus on filling his role and flourishing in it.
You can also discuss Brad Starks, his contributions to the Mountaineers and his future outlook further over at BlueGoldNews.com.