WVU football: Mathis latest Miramar product to join Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Devonte Mathis has a distinction he carries with him every time he takes the field for West Virginia. Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with his seemingly unique first name, thanks to fellow freshman receiver Devonte Robinson.
Mathis is instead the latest graduate of Miami's Miramar High to matriculate into the Mountaineers program. He is now teammates with former Patriots Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney.
"I have no choice but to go along with that," Mathis said. "It's expectations coming after Geno, Stedman and Ivan. It's a good thing and a bad thing, but it does make me work harder."
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mathis is a little different from his predecessors. Smith was a Parade Magazine All-American quarterback. Bailey and McCartney were first-team all-state receivers and McCartney played in the U.S. Army All-American. Mathis was all-county and played in the South Florida all-star game, but wasn't specialized. He did a little of everything through the years.
As a junior he passed for 713 yards and seven touchdowns and added 167 yards rushing and 198 yards receiving. Last season he focused on receiver and caught 35 passes for 552 yards and eight touchdowns as Miramar reached the Class 8A state championship game.
Regardless of his position, Mathis benefited from matchups against teammate Tracy Howard, arguably the top-rated cornerback in the 2012 recruiting class who signed with the Miami Hurricanes.
"That got me ready for college, knowing he was the top corner in the country," Mathis said. "I give him a lot of praise because he was always at that level.
"He was a great all-around athlete. Wherever he was on the field, he was effective."
WVU CONTINUES to test its freshman class to find players for the 2012 season and recent results haven't been encouraging. Monday's practice included a two-minute drill that exposed some of the young defenders.
"If they can't handle the up-tempo, two-minute situations, we're going to struggle," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Everyone is going to do that to us. The young guys without the experience, that's where it shows. They got caught standing around watching a little bit."
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EARLY ON in preseason camp, freshmen offensive linemen Adam Pankey and Tyler Orlosky earned playing time as second-team guards, but Holgorsen said neither has progressed as rapidly lately.
"They're starting to swim a little bit and it's catching up to them," Holgorsen said. "Hopefully we don't have to play those guys. You want to redshirt (freshmen) offensive linemen. Those guys are probably physically up to speed. Mentally, it's going to take some time. We'll keep repping them. We won't talk about a redshirt situation for the next two weeks."
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JOSH LAMBERT was a soccer player in football-crazy Texas all the way into middle school, where he first decided to give football a whirl. He's mostly only kicked field goals, extra points and kickoffs, but right now is working at all of those as well as punting.
It's not clear where he'll play, but it's clear what he prefers.
"Kicking," he said. "For me I think punting is harder. It's more about you have to drop ball same way at the same time every time. If you do that, then you'll be consistent."
Lambert is on scholarship and kicker Tyler Bitancurt and punter Corey Smith, who also handled kickoffs, are both seniors, so WVU could just be experimenting for 2013. Yet Lambert, who is 5-11 and 205 pounds, can put the ball deep into the end zone on kickoffs, something Bitancurt and Smith have not done consistently.
Holgorsen said he'd consider using Lambert, if only for kickoffs.
"If you can help the team in any form whatsoever, I don't care what it is, we're going to play you," Holgorsen said. "So I've got no problems playing him just to do that if he helps the team.''
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WHAT LITTLE of his offense that Holgorsen has revealed to the media this season isn't all that recognizable. Smith has taken snaps from under center on passing and running plays. The Mountaineers also used Cody Clay, an inside receiver who was a tight end at George Washington High, as an actual tight end for a red zone play. Later, WVU used blocking backs Ryan Clarke and Donovan Miles and Clay with running back Shawne Alston and two receivers.
"If you look back at what we've done in the offense over the years, if we have those bodies, we use those bodies," Holgorsen said. "Donovan Miles is getting better and better. He's a bigger body. Ryan Clarke is doing some good things. Shawne is a bigger back that you can put in there and cause some problems.
"Cody Clay is doing a good job taking over for what we did with Tyler Urban last year. Tyler was a better receiver and we could also motion him around and put him in the backfield to get us into some bigger sets. We're going to do a lot of that and it's going to resemble a lot of power football out there."
Holgorsen, whose offenses have led the nation in passing three times and been no worse than No. 6 in the past seven years, couldn't stifle his laughter.
"If you guys want to run with that one go ahead," he said.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.