MORGANTOWN - If this were the fall and the regular season, as opposed to the spring and the experimental season, J.D. Woods probably would be an outside receiver for West Virginia and this foray on the inside would be over.
He would slide back to the spot he played last year and cover up Ivan McCartney's hamstring injury. Ideally, he'd play as well as he did late in 2011, when Woods beat out McCartney for a starting spot.
Yet the senior from Naples, Fla., is an inside receiver and he's not changing. Woods is among WVU's best and that might not be changing, either.
"We said this from day one: We try to get the best four receivers on the field," receivers coach and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. "If he's one of the best four receivers in our opinion and he's stuck behind two outside guys we'll give him a chance inside. Looking at our personnel, we felt J.D. had an opportunity to be the next best guy. Now we want to see if he can play it."
The Mountaineers have Tavon Austin inside, but graduated Willie Milhouse, Devon Brown and Tyler Urban.
Seven receivers were part of the recruiting class and four or five will be inside players, but only one is in spring practice.
WVU had a need inside and WVU also had Woods playing behind Stedman Bailey and McCartney outside and about even with Ryan Nehlen as a backup.
"If you want to play around with things, you play around with them in the spring," Dawson said. "We wanted to give him a chance to be one of our top four guys and right now he's excelled."
The 6-foot, 1 inch Woods, who made big plays in the regular-season final at South Florida and started the Orange Bowl against Clemson, caught just seven passes for 67 yards and no touchdowns in 2011. He actually sat out three games.
Yet he got better throughout the season, heard praise for his practices, blocking and routes and earned the chance to create a new role in the spring.
McCartney, who was critiqued for his slow development late last season, has been slowed in the spring. Dawson, who does not want his players learning two positions in Dana Holgorsen's offense, said there was no need to restore Woods outside.
"Nehlen has been so steady in the spring that he's one of our top four right now," Dawson said.