Entering this year, West Virginia Mountaineer wide receiver Shelton Gibson was earning all sorts of preseason accolades. ESPN Big 12 reporter Jake Trotter stated that Gibson was a top-five pass catcher in the conference, while nationally renowned college football writer Phil Steele named the receiver to his preseason All-Big 12 first team.
Although such evaluations were undeniably lofty, Gibson has surpassed them through the Mountaineers’ first four games. He is quietly looking like one of the best receivers in the country.
“I was at a place [Baylor] last season that had a pretty good receiver that [Gibson] is moving up on now,” said West Virginia wide receiver coach Tyron Carrier to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Who exactly is the pass catcher Carrier is talking about?
“Corey Coleman,” Carrier said. “Shelton has those qualities, the will to be a great receiver. That’s hard to find.”
As a refresher, Coleman was the Biletnikoff Award winner–given to the nation’s best wide receiver–last year after recording 74 catches for 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was also the 15th overall pick–to the Cleveland Browns–in the NFL Draft this year. That’s high praise Gibson is receiving from his coach.
Looking at Gibson’s numbers so far, it is not surprising why Carrier believes the Cleveland Heights, Ohio, native is approaching “elite-receiver” status.
The 6-foot, 200 pound receiver produced a breakout season last year. Now, he is putting on a show the nation needs to pay attention to.
Gibson has tallied “only” 19 receptions this year. However, he has turned those catches into 458 yards and two touchdowns. Those 458 yards are good for fifth in the Big 12 behind receivers who have played in one or two more games than Gibson has. He is also fourth nationally in all-purpose yardage and No. 9 in receiving yards per game–112.2.
How Gibson is posting these ridiculous statistics deserves people’s recognition.
“[Gibson] can track the ball. He’s got a different gear. That dude, as goofy as he is, can track the ball like I’ve never seen,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “And not only can he track it–I mean he catches it well over his shoulder–but then he always somehow finds another gear.”
Entering this season, Gibson was known as a deep threat after he averaged 24 yards per reception in 2015. This year, however, the receiver is emerging as a much more consistent deep threat. Take a look at his catch against the Kansas State Wildcats back on Oct. 1.
West Virginia was down 16-3 with 1:48 left in the third quarter, on its own 27-yard line.
Gibson was split wide left from Mountaineer quarterback Skyler Howard, who was in shotgun formation. The ball was snapped and Gibson started running his fly route. Howard dropped back and tossed the ball Gibson’s way.
The ball was a little to Gibson’s right, so he adjusted to the throw. Gibson high pointed the ball. Once the pass hit his hands, the Wildcat defender ripped off Gibson’s helmet.
One would think Gibson would have lost concentration when his helmet was knocked off, but he didn’t. Gibson hauled in the throw and got the Mountaineers down to the Kansas State 22. That catch sparked a West Virginia comeback, as Gibson and the Mountaineers defeated the Wildcats, 17-16.
How is Gibson building a case to be one of the nation’s best pass catchers? He is gaining more and more confidence.
Coming out of high school, he was recruited and even committed to the Ohio State Buckeyes after visiting West Virginia. However, once he arrived in Morgantown, he questioned himself.
“I thought I was the worst receiver we had on the team. I felt like I’d lost it when I left high school,” Gibson said. “Most players go through it, though, wondering if they’ll get it back or not. My confidence is way higher now.”
In West Virginia’s last eight games, only one of its opponents occupied in the top-20 in passing yards allowed per game–Baylor. Besides that, the other seven teams they will face are below the top 50, with four below the top 100. Gibson will have more opportunities to show the nation why he is one of the best pass catchers in college football this season.