Now that the football regular season has ended and the players are taking their finals before the bowl prep really gets underway, the coaches are out tearing up the recruiting trail. This is a huge time for recruiting, as the majority of the class is in place and coaches work to fill needs and land star players toward the end of the cycle. Since high school seasons are done, coaches have a better idea of what kids can do and kids have more time to turn their focus to recruiting, when they can take official visits and host coaches at their schools and homes without being distracted from their own season.
That all being said, it's also a good time for us in the blogosphere to turn our attention to recruiting. Specifically, we'd like to take a look at who the key players are in the class so far, how many players WVU expects to take, which positions require the most attention, and who the remaining targets are.
The backdrop to this whole analysis is the drastic change that has taken place in Morgantown over the last year (documented by WVUIE97 here). How will the move to the Big XII impact recruiting? How about Dana Holgorsen taking over as head coach and bringing in a whole new offensive staff, who may have ties to different areas than their predecessors? Will rumors of Jeff Casteel's potential departure to Arizona (FWIW, the latest I've heard is that he was offered by RichRod, but will turn him down to stay in Morgantown) or new stadium expansion (as part of the Big XII move) affect recruiting?
The thought from here is that these factors will all work together to produce a marked increase in recruiting. Stew had a certain folksy appeal to some recruits and was definitely passionate about West Virginia University and the state as a whole, but there is no question that Holgs is a hot commodity right now. He runs an exciting offense that appeals to offensive recruits and exudes a young, hip attitude that resonates well with today's high schoolers. The move to the Big XII is obviously an improvement over the Big East, even if there is more travel involved, due to the increased exposure and opportunity to play against teams like Texas and Oklahoma on a yearly basis.
That move plays right into the hands of guys like Holgorsen, OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh, and WR coach Shannon Dawson, who have ties to Big XII country. It certainly can't hurt that we will be playing more games in an area of the country where we have strong recruiting ties. The presence of RB coach Robert Gillespie and WR coach Daron Roberts in Florida and DC, respectively, will help keep our ties in those traditional areas alive. And the importance of keeping our defensive staff in tact, with their ties to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, cannot be understated. Indeed, the future is bright in the Mountain State.
So let's take a look at the specifics of the class:
If you take a gander at the left-hand column toward the bottom of the page, you'll see a list of current commits. We'll get to them in a minute.
This year, we expect to take a full class of 25, plus 7 or 8 additional players who will enroll early and count back toward last year's class. (If you remember, we took 22 total in 2011, but Vance and Vernard Roberts, Avery Williams, Brian Athey and Paul Millard enrolled in January and counted back toward the 2010 class, leaving 17 officially in the class.)
Let's break the current verbals down by position:
QB (2) - Ford Childress, Brandon Napoleon - After filling the need for quality depth and a potential future starter after Geno Smith leaves, the coaching staff is high on both players and is likely done at this position.
RB (3) - Albert Reid, JT Washington, Roshard Burney - The staff wants to build quality depth behind their young group of returners and hopefully find an every-down back in the process. We could take another RB if a standout prospect wanted to commit.
WR (6) - Deontay McManus, Devonte Robinson, Darreall Joyner, Devonte Mathis, Danny McKinney (JC), Jordan Thompson - Building depth is important here with the losses of Brad Starks, Tyler Urban, and Devon Brown. Six receivers is plenty for a class, and there is definitely potential here, but we may take one more if the right WR came along.
OL (2) - Tyler Orlosky, Tony Matteo - Quality is more important than quantity here, as both of the 2009 and 2010 classes were heavy on linemen. At this point, the staff won't take someone just to have a body, but there are several quality targets still on the board that may end up wearing old gold and blue. Junior College prospects are not out of the question here.
DL (4) - Korey Harris, Noble Nwachukwu, Bret Niederreither, Imarjaye Albury - This is actually a pretty nice haul, with tons of potential. Throw in UCLA transfer Derrick Bryant and the depth concerns along the defensive line aren't as glaring as they might appear. Still, look for WVU to keep a spot open for a stud lineman, and may again look to the JUCO ranks.
LB (1) - Sam Lebbie - The linebacking corps is relatively young, but you never want to have just one 'backer in a class. Look for the Mountaineers to target a few more for 2012.
S (6) - Jarrod Harper, Trevor Williams, Chaz Whittaker,, Kimlon Dillon, Sean Walters - Yes, this looks like a ton of safeties. But when you play 3 at a time, and you factor in the possibility that some may bulk up and move to LB or have the ball skills to play CB, and this probably isn't the glut of talent that it looks like at first glance. Plus, these guys are solid players. If I could bring in six Sydney Glovers or Mike Lorellos, I'd take it in an instant. I get the sense that's what we're looking at here.
CB (1) - Da'Quan Davis - Corner is another area of need for WVU, but again expect the staff to target quality over quantity. There are bodies in the program, including promising youngsters Terrell Chestnut, Ishmael Banks, and Avery Williams. How they will pan out is yet to be seen, so if the Mounties sign another corner, you know he's a good one.
Now that we have a sense of who is likely already in the fold, let's take a closer look at some potential stars:
QB Ford Childress - Childress is an absolute specimen of a quarterback at 6'5, 210 lbs, and has a howitzer for an arm. He put up video game numbers in Texas's largest high school division, and is expected to come in and compete with Paul Millard for backup reps next year before taking over for Geno Smith in 2013. (But don't count out WVU legacy Brandon Napoleon, a standout dual-threat QB in his own right.)
OL Tyler Orlosky - The 13th ranked guard by Scout.com, this 4-star behemoth from one of Ohio's best prep programs (Lakewood St. Edwards HS) has a huge upside and could solidify what has been a weak offensive line as of late. It's rare for freshmen to get much playing time on the offensive line, but Orlosky has the size and skills to break into the 2-deep if he works hard and picks up the system quickly.
LB Sam Lebbie - WVU has had some great linebackers recently who have gone on to play in the NFL. Scout's #10 MLB has a chance to be the next one. Grades have scared off some potential suitors, but recent indications are that Lebbie will qualify. If he does, he could be the next Grant Wiley. Blessed with great size, above-average speed, and a nose for the ball, he could make an instant impact at a position of need.
WR Deontay McManus - The 6'1, 210 lbs WR with blazing speed has offers from basically every major BCS program, but has remained firm with the Mountaineers since giving his verbal in June. He may take some visits to other schools, but has given no indication that he is seriously considering anyone else. The allure of Holgorsen's offense is definitely paying off here, and McManus could be a good one.
And finally, who are some of the remaining targets that we should keep an eye out for?
- S Karl Joseph is choosing between WVU and UCF. While this class is heavy on safeties, KJ is a good one and would be a nice addition to an already strong class.
- OL Adam Pankey is a current Pitt commit who may re-open his commitment in the wake of Todd Graham's departure. He is supposed to visit in January.
- OL Mark Glowinski is a JUCO player who is showing strong interest. He would definitely be a strong addition, and would help with the distribution among the classes by giving us some experience. He would have 3 years to play 2.
- OL Tavon Rooks is another JUCO lineman getting a lot of attention from WVU.
- DL Mike Pennell is another to watch. He recently de-committed from Arkansas and WVU could be in play with him.
- DL Trae Clark is a heavy WVU lean. I believe Cincinnati is in the mix with him.
- DL Christian Brown is not quite as big as Clark, but would be another solid---and I mean solid---body on the defensive front.
- LB Ernest Hawkins is a teammate of current commit Deontay McManus who WVU could end up stealing from Maryland.
- LB Garret Hope is a three star from Texas who is supposed to visit in January. He could be a late pickup.
- RB David Smith is on WVU's radar. He's good enough that we wouldn't turn him down.
In all, expect the Mountaineers to take 7 or 8 more players. Of those 7-8, 2-3 will be offensive linemen, and 1-2 will probably be defensive linemen. Other than that, look for the Mounties to take a "best available" approach. Given the attrition over the last few years, there is no reason WVU shouldn't stock the roster with all the talent they can find, regardless of position. Great players will find the field somehow, and our schemes are flexible enough to allow for more shuffling than usual.
I tried my best to gather and share the best information out there, but, of course, recruiting is far from an exact science and this information could change on a whim. We may lose current verbals and/or sign players nobody is talking about right now. But that's part of the fun of it. So who are you most excited about? What are your concerns with the class? Do you know of any players I missed or have you heard information I didn't include? Feel free to share in the comments! We'll check back periodically and of course have full coverage leading up to National Letter of Intent Day on February 1, 2012. Stay tuned!