While the offense was for the most part stagnant for the Mountaineers in 2019, the wide receiver corps is the one area that clearly made progress all season. Players like Sam James, T.J. Simmons, Ali Jennings, and the recently departed George Campbell all got stronger as the year went on. However, there is one receiver that was overlooked during the season. Isaiah Esdale played a mostly limited role in the Mountaineer offense in 2019, but the flashes that he put on display during the last quarter of the season should have fans excited for his potential.
The rising redshirt junior finished the season with only 15 catches for 171 yards and 1 touchdown, but the skill set he brought each play could pose trouble for Big 12 defenses in the future. Not only did Esdale display the ability to be a possession receiver, he also had the opportunity to show his arm talent. During the first half of a matchup with Texas Tech on November 9th, Esdale has his opportunity to show his arm strength. In what Neal Brown called a “Texas flea flicker,” Austin Kendall threw a backwards lateral pass to Esdale, who then found Kennedy McKoy streaking down the far sideline for the touchdown. For Esdale to be able fit a ball in a tight space throwing across his body shows natural passing talent. This could open up the possibility of trick plays into what should be a much improved offense in 2020.
The most difficult catch a receiver can make is over-the-shoulder. Having the ability to track a ball can make a good receiver an elite receiver. Esdale has this ability on full display in the season finale. On a 2nd and 10 late in the fourth quarter, Jarret Doege found Esdale at the front pylon for the game-winning 36-yard touchdown. A pass that Doege said he did not know had a chance to be completed due to the immense pressure in the pocket, was perfectly placed right over the shoulder of Esdale. The toughness of this catch showed the pure talent that Esdale brings to the table. With the limited space, the Elkton, Maryland native was able to get one foot in bounds while possessing the ball.
Esdale will continue to see his role increase in the offense. Bringing to the table the threat of being a vertical target and a superb passing ability, the sky could potentially be the limit. Every season, unknown players have surprise breakout seasons. West Virginia will just have the most surprising of them all.
With pressure in his face, @WVUfootball QB Jarret Doege (@DoegeJarret) throws a beautiful ball to WR Isaiah Esdale (@Zekeyyyyyy) for the game-winning touchdown. Doege making a strong case to start next season.#WNSFilm pic.twitter.com/LbJYeDsvE4
— Brandon Olsen (@WNS_Brandon) December 3, 2019