MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04: Head coach Dana Holgorsen of the West Virginia Mountaineers has gatorade dumped on his head by his players including Tyler Rader #55 (L) of the West Virginia Mountaineers after they won 70-33 against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Now that the Gold-Blue spring game is in the books and things around the WVU sports world are starting to slow down a little, it's probably a good time to look ahead to the Mountaineers' 2013 football recruiting class. While Dana Holgorsen's first full recruiting class as head coach was solid across the board, 2013 is where the team should really start to reap the benefits of the 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson and, possibly to a greater extent, the move to the Big XII. The class got off to a pretty solid start over the weekend, with the verbals of Bloomfield, NJ, offensive lineman Marcell Lazard and Hermitage, PA, running back Deshawn Coleman. Both are excellent early pickups, with Lazard (6'5, 280) choosing West Virginia over offers from Florida, Ohio State, and Miami FL, among others, and Coleman (5'11, 170) spurning offers from Penn State and Purdue. Coleman could be an excellent sleeper pick after exploding onto the scene last year. Although those are the Mountaineers' first verbals of the class of 2013 (okay, unless you count Ohio safety Jayme Thompson, who already decommitted to join Urban Meyer's minor league franchise in Columbus), the future remains bright inside the Puskar Center.
What I hope to do here is break down who WVU will be losing, the areas of biggest need, and the most likely targets to fill those areas. That last part might be a little difficult this early in the game, as a large part of recruiting is done over the summer when coaches aren't busy with current players and recruits have time away from school and football to take visits and think about their future. Keep in mind, WVU should be able to take the full 25 players in this class and will have the luxury of counting a couple early enrollees back toward the 2012 class, which should provide flexibility to take a few projects. I see this class as pivotal in WVU's ability to succeed in the Big XII due to the number of impact players WVU will be losing and the need for new players to step in immediately and help us win.
QB - Orange Bowl MVP Geno Smith will graduate in 2012, hopefully after breaking all kinds of ridiculous passing records. His backups, sophomore Paul Millard and freshman Ford Childress, both look poised to pick up where Smith will leave off. True, Smith was the more decorated recruit, but I don't think there is much to worry about here. Yet I still think we take at least one, if not two, scholarship quarterbacks in this class to provide much-needed depth.
RB - Shawne Alston, Ryan Clarke, and newly converted LB Donovan Miles will all be departing. Sophomores Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie will return along with freshmen Torry Clayton and Roshard Burney. The Mounties clearly need more depth here, and it would be great to find a stud back who can take over the bulk of the carries and rush for over 1,000 yards. What's more interesting, at least to me, will be whether Holgorsen elects to offer scholarships to blocking backs for his diamond formations, or whether that formation developed out of necessity based on the personnel on hand. I'm guessing it's the latter, and we see 1-2 running backs in this class.
WR - Tavon Austin, JD Woods and Ryan Nehlen are seniors. I wouldn't die from shock if Stedman Bailey elected to turn pro. That leaves a freaking YOUNG receiving corps. Luckily, though, the group appears to be talented. We'll see how RS freshmen KJ Myers and Dante Campbell and transfer Terrence Gourdine develop and whether junior Ivan McCartney can stay healthy. Jordan Thompson looks great, and the incoming class has some potential impact players in Travares Copeland and Deontay McManus, among others. Still, we will need depth and impact players, so I'd expect 3-4 receivers in this class. And yeah, I'd expect them to be really freaking good.
OL - Jeff Braun, Joe Madsen and Josh Jenkins, and backup John Bassler will be gone, leaving new starters throughout the interior line (good grief are we going to be young on offense next year! losing 8 starters? are you kidding?!?). Another area where depth isn't as good as we'd like (although last year's class was good), I'd expect to see 3-4 linemen in this group.
DL - Key players Will Clarke and JB Lageman will graduate, leaving Shaq Rowell, Imarjaye Albury, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Rose and Tyler Demko to man the line. If right now you're thinking we really need to start recruiting well along the defensive line, you'd be right. Defensive line is probably the hardest position to come in and play as a true freshman, so unless we want to start getting dominated by Big XII offenses, it would behoove us to develop quality depth along the line. I'm hoping to see at least 3 quality defensive linemen in this class.
LB - Other than JUCO transfer Josh Francis (who seems poised to shine this year in the new 3-4 scheme) and Terence Garvin, the entire linebacking corps returns, and they look to be talented. Jared Barber, Jewone Snow, Doug Rigg, Troy Gloster, Wes Tonkery, Taige Redman, Shaq Petteway, and Isaiah Bruce (who led the spring game with 8 tackles) will all return with a ton of experience. I still think we take a few backers to provide depth for the future, but linebacker is probably our deepest position going forward.
DB - Starting corner Pat Miller departs, and backup safety Matt Moro will be gone. Starting safeties Darwin Cook and Travis Bell return, bolstered by young corners Avery Williams and Terrell Chestnut and freshman safety Karl Joseph. I like the experience here, but this year will be a crucial one to build depth at both corner and safety, as those players will have to step in and play the following year. I expect at least 2 corners and 2 safeties.
Oh, and we lose specialists Corey Smith and Tyler Bitancurt, although scholarship kicker Josh Lambert will probably be a redshirt freshman in 2013. So make what you will of that.
As for potential targets, things are obviously pretty nebulous at this point. There are offers out, but everything is in flux. Given how huge a task this could potentially be, let's pick a prospect from each group above and see where we stand.
QB - Connor Mitch (Raleigh, NC) - Offers from Alabama, LSU and North Carolina. 6'3, 210 lbs. Led his team to a 10-3 record with more than 3,300 passing yards and 35 TD.
RB - Lorenzo Woodley (Miami, FL) - Offers from Florida State, Tennessee and Rutgers. Split time with two other division 1 recruits at running back, yet averaged 9.5 YPC with 8 TD. Uh, not bad.
WR - Zach Bradshaw (Damascus, MD) - Offers from Georgia Tech, Michigan, and South Carolina. Good size at 6'3, 205 lbs. Tons of room to develop.
OL - Ethan Pocic (Lemont, IL) - Offers from everyone. No, really. I think the Cleveland Browns offered him a scholarship. At 6'6, 280 lbs with room to grow, he's just the type of offensive tackle Bill Bedenbaugh is looking for to groom into a road grading fortress.
DL - DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, FL) - Offers from Alabama, Florida and Southern Cal. First team all-state as a junior. 6'4, 265 lbs and athletic. Would be a coup if he ended up in Morgantown.
LB - Yannick Ngakoue (Washington, DC) - Offers from Auburn, Florida State and Vanderbilt. 6'2, 225 lbs and savvy at middle linebacker, could contribute immediately.
DB - Kirk Garner (Olney, MD) - Offers from Nebraska, Penn State, UVA. 5'11, 180 lbs and quick. Plays on an excellent Our Lady Good Counsel team with plenty of experience winning big. Would provide excellent depth.
We will do our best to keep you updated on new commits and new prospects, as well as other developments, throughout the summer. If anyone has information about potential recruits, please share it in the comments. This is a collaborative effort, here, and any additional tips are greatly appreciated.