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2021 West Virginia Football: Mountaineer Touch Tracker

Which Mountaineers are seeing the most opportunities in 2021?

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Maryland Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

In his Tuesday presser, Neal Brown mentioned that he'd like to get Leddie Brown around 25 touches per game in the context of the 21 he got against Maryland being an OK number. And begrudgingly, he's right - despite the frustration around Leddie's 4th quarter carry situation, his usage in the Maryland game (21 touches in 61 plays, 33%) was actually right on par with this year's stated goal (25) compared to last year's very similar team's average play count (75 per game over 10 games).

This also got me interested in looking at how else we're spreading the ball around, and I figure if I'm interested then there might be others, as well. So let's look at that. I'll update this weekly with the number of non-return opportunities (rush attempts + targets) and we can discuss how good a job our coaches and quarterbacks are doing at getting the ball to our playmakers. Here's where we stand after week 1:

Leddie Brown

I'd like to see us lean on him more, but as was previously mentioned Leddie's usage rate was actually about what we'd expect, especially considering the situational context around how those late game drives played out provided by Mike Cassaza in last week's episode of the Screen Share.

Winston Wright

The Jet hauled in 6 of his 10 targets on Saturday (1 drop per PFF). That's reasonable volume, but his explosiveness makes me think we need to make even more of an effort to get him the ball in space. He made the switch to Tavon Austin’s #1 shirt this offseason and has put on a little weight, so maybe it makes sense to mix in a few Tavon-esque touches in the run game?

Sam James

James saw 7 targets on Saturday, catching 5 of them for 65 yards and a touchdown. That translates to about 8.6 opportunities if we run our standard 75 plays, which feels just about right.

Bryce Ford-Wheaton

BFW came alive late against Maryland with 3 catches for 43 yards in the 4th quarter, but his 9% usage rate (7.3 opportunities per 75 plays) is maybe a bit low considering how dangerous he looks with the ball in hands. Somewhere in that 8-10 targets per game range with Sam James feels like the sweet spot.

Isaiah Esdale

The ever-dependable Esdale caught all 3 of his targets on Saturday. He's probably not a guy that we're ever going to call a ton of plays for, but I'd definitely trust him with more touches if the flow of the game allows for it.

Sean Ryan

In a perfect world I think there are probably 10-12 targets per game that are available to be split across Esdale, Ryan, Kaden Prather, and Reese Smith, so considering our limited snap count the 3 opportunities that Sean Ryan saw on Saturday seems just fine.

Smith/Prather

0 targets and only 8 snaps between them (7 and 1, respectively). Seems low for the skills they've flashed in their limited time on campus. Prather especially seems like somebody who should be out there more frequently if we're going to continue to emphasize our vertical passing game, and Smith is a viable option in the slot if and when Winston Wright needs a break.

Mathis/Johnson

Mathis was obviously hurt for Maryland and Johnson only saw a single snap, but based on everything Neal Brown has been saying to the media he wants to get both of them more involved going forward. How the volume shakes out here will likely be largely situational, but if we're able to lean on these guys for somewhere between 10 and 15 snaps per game with maybe 5 combined opportunities it would go a long way towards keeping Leddie fresh.

O'Laughlin/Banks

O'Laughlin was out for the Maryland game, as well, but TJ Banks did see a target. The volume is never going to be high for this group, maybe somewhere between 3 and 5 opportunities per game between them if we get close to 75 snaps as an offense.

Sam Brown

Should somebody put out an APB? Kinda weird for a guy who looked half-decent in limited action last year to get zero snaps.