Welcome to our weekly edition of The Signing Musket, where Chris Anderson, publisher of EerSports.com (of the 247Sports.com network) drops in to answer our Mountaineer recruiting questions. Join us for a quick Q&A and join the conversation in the comments section!
The Smoking Musket: Obviously the big news this week was 4 star defensive back Dravon Henry's commitment to WVU. Is there any indication if he's expected to play corner or safety? (can he please, PLEASE be a corner?) Would it be fair to expect him to see playing time in his first year?
Chris Anderson: He'll get his first look at cornerback, the coaching staff told him and his family. If that doesn't work out, or it's quicker to get on the field, he could just as easily line up at safety, though. He has the talent to play both, and it would not surprise me to see him line up at each spot in the future. I do feel he is talented enough to play next year in some capacity. Considering he would be a true freshman, though, I would limit my expectations to nickel corner/safety and some special teams (he's also an All-State running back and excellent return man).
TSM: A final point on Henry, how significant an effect will his recruitment have on helping to open the pipeline to Aliquippa, PA? There was already the commitment of Henry's teammate D linemen Jaleel Fields the day after - could there be more coming? More importantly, could the comments his mother made during his announcement about Pitt have any effect? Is that normal? Is there any sign that it resonated with remaining recruits?
CA: This should help tremendously in that aspect, especially if he has a successful career at West Virginia. It's been difficult for highly-regarded Pittsburgh area kids to choose the Mountaineers even if they wanted to, thanks to the pressure from those in the community. We've already seen it with Henry - reporters for Pitt outlets cut off their feed, made disparaging remarks and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story talking about WVU being in hot water over a tweet from Rushel Shell (which was a GROSS overreaction) just a couple hours after the commitment. If Henry comes in, has a solid career and is happy with his time at WVU, you'll see more kids see that it's alright to go to the former arch-rival school.
As for the comments from Henry's mother (and then again with his father in an interview later), you will see that a decent amount in the recruiting world. Not usually in such a direct way, but more in a subtle manner when complimenting the school that was eventually chosen. I do believe it could have an impact on other Western Pennsylvania recruits, though. If players from that area that are currently on the team are truly unhappy, West Virginia could benefit in a major way.
TSM: Butch Jones at Tennessee has drawn some criticism for having 33 committed players but the same yearly scholarship limit as everybody else - 25. It seems that the SEC tradition of oversigning is continuing. Does the WVU staff work on kids who might be left out in the cold by oversigning, attempting to give them a 'soft place to land'? Is that in any way a strategy?
CA: No one in that class will get "left out in the cold," as many of them are planning to enroll early, which will allow all of them to have a scholarship. Still, all coaches - WVU included - will be hitting hard schools that have a large quantity of commitments, especially if schools have several players at the same position.
The target of WVU's ire this year, for whatever reason, seems to be Miami, though. The Hurricanes have 28 commitments and are still pushing for more, yet the Mountaineers have hosted four of their commits (one now a former commit, Dalvon Stuckey, who switched to Auburn) and would like to host two more.
As we say in the business, it's poaching season!
TSM: Related to that, what total number do you expect is this WVU class to end up at? Again - the limit is 25 but there are ways around that such as back-counting (counting kids who arrive early towards last year's class if any capacity exists to do so). Given the need for depth across the board, is there any chance the Mountaineers could bring MORE than 25 onto the roster?
CA: I doubt West Virginia will go over 25. Although they have several players set to enroll early which would allow them to, WVU is more concerned with the total number of scholarships - 85. By my count, there are 19 scholarships available (12 seniors leaving, seven open already). That does not include Ronald Carswell or Andrew Buie (I'm assuming neither comes back). I figure there will be your typical attrition in the coming weeks - upperclassmen who find themselves second or third on the depth chart - and WVU will shoot for the 23 to 25 range in this class.
(Note: the next 3 questions were sent in via email from Chad W. in Lexington, KY. As you'll see, the readers are smarter than me. Great questions.)
Chad: Of the 18 current commits, do you see any flipping or at least flirting heavily with other schools?
CA: Lamar Parker and Sylvester Townes took visits to other schools, but both are solid; and Edward Muldrow was considering one to Arkansas, but canceled. The new name to watch is linebacker Xavier Preston, who is planning to visit Iowa State, although I think he will remain with WVU.
Chad: Any chance that Joseph Yearby or Brandon Powell (or even Williams from UK) comes over to the good guys? Hard to imagine Miami taking both.
If one flips, does that effect Donte Thomas-Williams for us? With Shell, Smallwood, Smith, Buie, Garrison I can't see us taking more than two RBs
CA: Current Miami commit Brandon Powell is announcing his "final decision" next week between Miami, Nebraska, Tennessee and West Virginia. As for Joseph Yearby, him breaking his lower leg ruined his official visit plans and I see him sticking. I don't get the sense that Powell will flip either, but if Yearby's five-star running back teammate, Dalvin Cook, flips to Miami, that's a bit too much in the backfield for him not to at least consider it.
As for Donte Thomas-Williams, it might have a small effect on him, but he's a much different back than Powell, and I believe him to be a take pretty much regardless.
Chad: Are there any defensive line prospects remaining that WVU could pluck - are the JUCOs the best place left to get them?
CA: Globe Institute (NY) defensive lineman Jihad Ward is the most likely. He is down to West Virginia and Illinois, with an official visit upcoming for South Florida. Right now, the Mountaineers are solidly in the lead.
After that, things get a little more murky. There are a couple more names on the JUCO board, but I would not say WVU leads for any of them at the moment. Seneca Valley (MD) defensive end Daniel Appouh, a high school prospect, claims an offer and says he will visit next month, but his recruitment is just getting started as schools did not take notice until he sent out his senior film last month.
TSM: On the other side of the trenches, you talked a little about the offensive line last week. That's a place where WVU is sorely lacking depth and it showed this past season. Can you talk in more detail about current commits on the O line and any big names out there that the coaches have circled. These guys don't get a lot of pub, but as we just saw, the level of talent on the front can determine the success of those on the back.
CA: Justin Scott is the big one and it's a shame that he's not able to make it in early. His school finishes in February, which is too late to enroll for spring semester at WVU. Still, he will be here in May, and I think he's good enough to start at tackle next August. His fellow JUCO commit Sylvester Townes will be in town next month, giving him a head start and an opportunity to earn the starting job at tackle.
I like Morgantown's (WV) Amanii Brown, too. I feel he's a solid pick up for WVU on the interior of the line. Josh Krok is the prize on the high school level, in my opinion, but Jamie Herr is getting some of the best training one can get before college at Flash Training (same place as Daikiel Shorts and Wendell Smallwood), and Walter Rauterkus' senior tape looked much improved from his junior film.
TSM: Finally, any off radar 4-5 stars that we could be coming into play with (a fan can dream right)?
CA: No names, but I would definitely stay tuned. Remember, Brandon Golson and Mario Alford were not even on WVU's radar until January. Coaching changes will take place across the country over the next few weeks, and a lot of talented kids are going to be looking around.
Thanks for stopping by this week be sure to check in next week. Also thanks again to Chris for his great insight - he can talk about the WVU roster as intelligently as anyone on the beat. If you find yourself fiending for this type of great recruiting info on a daily basis, head on over EerSports.com where they're running a 30-Day trial for fans as we approach National Signing Day.
As I've said before, this is an evolving feature and we'd love to get your input. If you have questions you'd like us to pass along to Chris or thoughts please shoot me an email at email@example.com or shoot us a tweet at @SmokingMusket or @abpriddy. Also be sure you're following him at @CMAnderson247 to get the latest in WVU news - recruiting and otherwise.
See you next week!