MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen wants to see improvement. Ivan McCartney seeks redemption.
The rising senior is back for his final season with the West Virginia University football, having been allowed to rejoin the team six months after abruptly departing the squad just prior to last season's game against Oklahoma State for "personal reasons."
McCartney said he was dealing with his grandfather's illness and went home to help him and his father. He said he continued to work out because he assumed he would rejoin the team one day, though he admits he did harbor thoughts that the team may not be the Mountaineers.
Photo provided by WVU
Receiver Ivan McCartney has returned for his senior season at West Virginia. He left the program last season.
"There were a lot of things I was dealing with that I didn't want to be put out," McCartney said. "Everything played out the way it was supposed to play out. It was God's will to be back here."
McCartney had been poised for a breakout 2012 season after catching 49 passes as a sophomore in 2011. However, he saw his playing time diminish, and only caught nine passes in WVU's first eight games. There were even a few games in which he never touched the football.
"A lot of people hear different things that didn't know what was going on," McCartney said. "There was just a lot of things going on at one time that I had to learn to deal with."
McCartney rejoined the team in May, saying he asked Holgorsen for the opportunity to rejoin "the brothers I never had." Holgorsen told McCartney he had to prove himself all over again.
"Second chances are few and far between," Holgorsen said when it was announced McCartney would be coming back. "The kid's got an opportunity to right the ship."
With the fresh start, McCartney has adopted a familiar old number, 85, the same number he wore in high school and the same number his more famous cousin Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco wears in the NFL.
"I wanted to start something fresh, something new," McCartney said, though admitting someone else had already been issued his old No. 5 during his absence. "I'm putting this on for my cousin, too. But I'm not changing my last name."
An inexperienced corps of wide receivers is on the Mountaineer roster this fall, so McCartney believes he will have to be a leader of some sort among the pass catchers.
"I don't know how the guys look at me," he said. "I try to be a leader and let guys know how it's going to be.
"I'm more focused now," McCartney added. "I'm just giving it that extra push. My biggest goal is to help this team in every aspect to get to where it wants to go - the Big 12 championship, the national championship. I've always been about the team."