After West Virginia's 2013 recruiting class was complete on Wednesday, I offered some initial thoughts about what the class has to offer and who I'm most excited about. Now, with a few days to sit down and look in-depth at who we brought in and the players we have coming back, let's dive a little deeper into the signees and where they fit into the Mountaineers' plans in 2013 and beyond.
First things first: folks are probably wondering why ATH Marquion Lane, WR Jacky Marcellus and RB DeShawn Coleman were not announced as a part of the class. What exactly is going on is the subject of much speculation, but Mike Casazza stated in his blog that the three players signed some type of commitment letter that creates a relationship with WVU but does not bind either party the way a National Letter of Intent would. Okay, so maybe those guys have some work left to do. I think they're clearly committed, as Coleman has been with the Mountaineers for almost an entire year, Marcellus visited recently and brought his high school teammate Mackenro Alexander, and Lane picked WVU on signing day. Let's hope they get their affairs in order (whatever those may be, assuming Casazza is right) and wind up in Morgantown at least by fall camp. But for now, let's proceed without them in a post-signing day depth chart evaluation of where the newcomers may fit in:
QB: Paul Millard, Ford Childress, Chavas Rawlins - The quarterback derby is wide-open right now, and should be fun to watch with each of the players bringing something entirely different to the table. You have Millard, the steady veteran with two years of mop-up duty under his belt; Childress, the talented Texan with a cannon for an arm; and Rawlins, the true freshman dual threat, who complicates the equation with his running ability. I think Childress ends up being the starter, but it's probably a race with Rawlins, who can use his legs as well as his arm and will be around for spring practice to learn the system. Heck, maybe the winner depends on how the rest of the offense comes together. If Childress doesn't have the running game or protection to keep the heat off, Rawlins suddenly becomes a better option due to his mobility. At the very least, it should make for a fun spring game.
RB: Andrew Buie, Dustin Garrison, Cody Clay, Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwod, Elijah Wellman - After two years of seeing Buie and Garrison split time, is anyone convinced that one of them will take the bull by the horns as a junior? If anything, Smith has what it takes to become an every down back spelled occasionally by Buie and Garrison. Smallwood is an interesting guy, as he has been under the radar but did enroll early, so maybe he factors in too. I'd say the same about Coleman if he makes it on campus. Wellman joins Clay as a blocking back, and if he's physically ready could play early both at fullback and on special teams. Bottom line: if Smith is consistent, durable and versatile, I think we see a lot of him in 2013
WR: Connor Arlia, Dante Campbell, JK Myers, Jordan Thompson, Will Johnson, Devonte Mathis, Devonte Robinson, Terrence Gourdine, Kevin White, Ronald Carswell, Mario Alford, Shelton Gibson, Daikiel Shorts - So there may be a lack of proven talent returning this year, yes? The talent is definitely there in this class to help make up for that. Sure, some of the younger guys may step up after a year or two in the program. But shouldn't they have shown flashes by now? Maybe Gourdine, who transferred in last year and had to sit out, can dent the rotation, but what if he doesn't? I could see a starting wideout corps of White, Carswell, Alford and Gibson by the end of the year. They all have complementary strengths, and three of the four have JUCO experience. Carswell is probably the most polished, and I'd say he will start out the year as our go-to guy. Alford is simply a burner, and his highlight tapes are basically a loop of him taking screens and turning them into long touchdowns. Gibson I absolutely love, and he'll end up being the best of the bunch, but even Tavon Austin took some time to adjust to the college game so I'm not predicting a 1,000 yard season for him out of the gate. White may be the best raw athlete of the group, and if he can learn to time his jumps to snatch the ball from hapless defenders he could be a terror in the red zone. Shorts I don't know much about, but he did enroll early. Can he maybe have a career like JD Woods? I'd take that from him right now. Let's just say I'm cautiously optimistic about this group, as nobody has proven anything yet.
OL: Nick Kindler, Pat Eger, Quinton Spain, Curtis Feigt, Marquis Lucas, Russel Haughton-James, Brandon Jackson, Mark Glowinski, Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky, Tyler Tezeno, Stone Underwood, Marcell Lazard, Grant Lingafelter - Despite losing the majority of the starting line from this past season, you have to like what we have coming back. Spain, Eger, Feigt and Kindler all have some experience, and the guys who redshirted last year all have talent. Sure, they will need some time to gel, so I'm not expecting Dustin Garrison to go off for 240 rushing yards at Oklahoma in September, but I think they could be solid by the end of the year. Joey Madsen was a pretty good center, by the way, and Josh Jenkins was a five star recruit and played as a true freshmen, so we're not talking about replacing scrubs here. As I said on Wednesday, Underwood could be a diamond in the rough, so I expect him to play early and play well. The other three guys, particularly Tezeno and Lazard, all have talent but will need some time to put on weight and learn our blocking schemes. On a whim, I think our starters against William and Mary are Spain, Glowinski, Underwood, Eger, Feigt. Make sure to remind me how wrong I was when it's Spain, Lucas, Matteo, Orlosky and Eger.
DL: Will Clarke, Shaq Rowell, Christian Brown, Trevor Demko, Jewone Snow, Kyle Rose, Noble Nwachukwu, Corey Harris, Dozie Ezemma, Garrett Hope, Eric Kinsey, Dontrill Hyman - This looks a lot better now that I typed out all those names than it did on Wednesday when I was thinking how bad the line would be. Obviously the big question will be at nose, where we are perilously thin after Rowell and Brown. Clarke is proven, and I think Hyman is good enough to play on the other side or to back up Clarke, depending on who else steps up. There is clearly some ability here, it's just a matter of developing guys and adding weight to make them game-ready. Should we need a third nose, Hyman and Rose are probably the next two in line, though both are a bit tall for what you'd ideally want. I'd bet my house on the staff going out to get at least three guys who fit this bill in 2014, with at least one of them being a JUCO.
LB: Sean Walters, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jared Barber, Isaiah Bruce, Shaq Petteway, Wes Tonkery, Tyler Anderson, Doug Rigg, Brandon Golson, D'Vante Henry, Marvin Gross, Al-Rasheed Benton, Isaac McDonald, Darrien Howard, Hodari Christian - Dang. I love this group. It has everything, except maybe one guy who stands out above the rest. Honestly, it's hard to evaluate these guys given that some may turn into rush ends and whatnot. The coaches used Tyler Anderson at rush end some last year, and talked about Golson (compared to a taller Josh Francis---hopefully without the gratuitous personal fouls during an opponent's potential game-winning drive), Henry, and Gross all filling that role. Mike Casazza also mentioned Howard (the highest-rated guy in the entire class) possibly having added 50(!) pounds and moving down to DT or nose. So, taking all that into consideration...I think Barber, Bruce and Rigg all start and play. A lot. I think Golson and Henry step in and at least fill situational roles right away, and may even take a full time spot. That being said, I love Gross, Benton and Howard. They're the future...at one position or another. McDonald is a guy with a great frame, but I don't know much more about him or Christian, other than Christian enrolled early. Sometimes those guys flame out, other times they're role players, and other times they turn into Karl Joseph. Cross your fingers that they're all Karl Joseph.
DB: Nana Kyremeh, Brandon Napoleon, Ricky Rumph, Vernon Davis, Terrell Chestnut, Brodrick Jenkins, Avery Williams, KJ Dillon, Jarrod Harper, Karl Joseph, Darwin Cook, Travis Bell, Ishmael Banks, Daryl Worley, Malik Greaves, Jeremy Tyler - I know, I know. Everyone wanted us to sign a couple shutdown corners to help compete in the Big XII. Well, we didn't, and if I'm a shutdown corner, I probably don't go to the Big XII either where I might put that moniker in jeopardy against the country's best receivers. We have numbers, and I firmly believe those guys aren't as bad as we think. First, they were young. Trying to lock down on Kenny Stills in your first collegiate action is probably not the best recipe for success, Terrell Chestnut. But I think these guys get better, especially under new coach Brian Mitchell, and maybe Miami FL transfer Vernon Davis can help. I like our safeties, too. Karl Joseph is a beast, but Dillon can play, and Cook and Bell both have plenty of experience. My guess is that the three freshmen all redshirt, but let me say I'm really excited about Tyler. He's heady, and for some reason I think of him as a shorter Robert Sands. Worley and Greaves again I don't know as much about. Greaves enrolled early, so maybe he gets some action on special teams. If nothing else, we added quality depth.
ST: Josh Lambert, Michael Molinari, John DePalma, Nick O'Toole, Houstin Syvertson - Four years of Tyler Bitancurt and all of a sudden we have a wide open kicking competition again. I think the coaches must be confident in Lambert, who they put on scholarship and redshirted last year, or they would have tried to bring in someone else. Molinari has some experience punting, so...there's that I guess. But I love that they put O'Toole on scholarship. It shows that Holgorsen really values special teams and I hope it's worthwhile. Reports are that O'Toole has the distance, hangtime, and accuracy to be a good one. Although he's not on scholarship, I also am high on Syvertson. The kid is a specimen, and may end up playing some at fullback, which I fully support. Among this group, I think the kicking game is at least as good as last year and the punting game is almost guaranteed to improve. But what about kickoffs? Someone ask me about kickoffs. Kickoffs? Oh yeah, I think one of these guys should be able to get the job done.
So that's a wrap for the class of 2013, at least pending the three guys I mentioned at the beginning. Now we're on to 2014. Check back after spring practice to get a bead on where the coaching staff will likely focus in our next class!