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West Virginia Mountaineers Football: There's Been An Attrition Problem In Morgantown

What started as a look at one coach's recruiting turned into a look at the last twelve years of the program.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There have been repeated requests by some commenters to show how Coach Stewart's recruiting numbers (not necessarily talent, but shear numbers) has left the depth chart with a limited quantity of scholarship players.

Please note: I implore you to read and take in the entire article. The focus begins with one argument and finishes with another.

This is the quote that got me started on this quest:

Holgorsen started out 15-3 and he's 6-14 since. And yes, he won 15 of 18 at the start with a roster largely recruited by someone else. But he's also lost 14 of 20 with a roster largely recruited by someone else.

You can't say he started out 5-0 in 2012 with Bill Stewart's players and finished 2-6 with his own. Doesn't work that way. The fact is he went both 15-3 and 6-14 predominantly with Stewart's roster, which accounted for all of the third-, fourth- and fifth-year players this year and all of the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-year players last year. His players last year were freshmen and this year were freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores. (Thus, the influx of gap-filling junior college players and transfers). - Dave Hickman, Charleston Gazette

Let me also start this off by clarifying the purpose of this post. This is not, in any way, a kind of "hit piece". This is not any kind judgment of character or of the on the field coaching ability of former WVU Coach Bill Stewart or the abilities of the players he recruited. This began as strictly a look at the recruiting classes credited to him and how many of those players made an impact on the field or even made it to campus in some cases.

There are many opinions out there. What I'm presenting here are facts.

Here are the lists of recruits credited to Bill Stewart:

2008* 2009 2010 2011
D.J. Thomas CB
Jerrard Hunter WR Ivan McCartney WR
Marquis Lucas OL
Mark Rodgers RB
Will Clarke DL
Travis Bell DB
Andrew Buie RB
Zach Hulce RB
Taige Redman LB
Qudral Forte DB
Terrell Chestnut DB
Benji Kemoeatu OL
Pat Miller DB
Avery Williams WR
Russell Haughton-James OL
Robert Sands DB
Jonathan Scott DB
Dante Chambers WR
Dustin Garrison RB
Ja'tavious Miller LB
Terrance Moore WR
Bruce Irvin DL
Brandon Jackson OL
Josh Jenkins OL
Brodrick Jenkins DB
Jewone Snow LB
Isaiah Bruce LB
Jerome Swinton DB
Tavon Austin WR
Ishmael Banks DB
Paul Millard QB
Coley White QB
Tevita Finau DL
Doug Rigg LB
Shaq Rowell DL
J.D. Woods WR
Stedman Bailey WR
Troy Gloster LB Josh Francis LB
Ryan Clarke RB
Geno Smith QB
Quantavius Leslie WR
K.J. Myers WR
Tyler Urban TE
Darwin Cook DB
Trevor Demko DL
Shaq Petteway DB
Tevita Finau DL
Curtis Feigt DL
Wes Tonkery DB
Ben Bradley DL
Jorge Wright DL
Nick Kindler OL
Barry Brunetti QB
Justin Johnson OL
D.J. Shaw DL
Terence Garvin DB
Jeremy Johnson QB
Jared Barber LB
Bernard Smith LB
Ryan Spiker OL
Mike Dorsey LB
Nick Kwiatkoski LB
Courtney Stuart DB
Pat Eger OL
Trey Johnson RB
Dante Campbell WR
Brantwon Bowser DB
Daquan Hargrett RB
Marquis Wallace OL
Brian Athey QB
Tyler Bitancurt K
Shawne Alston RB
Benji Kemoeatu OL
Kyle Rose DL
Larry Ford DL
Jordan Weingart OL
Quinton Spain OL
Vernard Roberts WR
Joe Madsen OL
Cole Bowers OL
Deon Long WR
Vance Roberts DB
John Bassler OL
Dominik Davenport DL
Cody Clay TE
Chris Palmer DL
Deon Long WR
Donovan Miles LB
Branko Busick LB
J.J. Dorsey QB
Chris Snook LB
Jeff Braun OL
Logan Heastie WR
Terence Kerns RB

*The 2008 recruiting class credit goes to both Stewart and Rich Rodriguez's staff, but ultimately was signed by Stewart

Of the players listed above, these never qualified, left school or transferred before seeing any meaningful playing time, or qualified and never made an impact on the field (to keep subjectivity to a minimum, for this purpose, we'll define impact as playing in more than half of a single season's games):

2008 - Thomas, Hulce, Kemoeatu, Miller, Swinton, White, Finau, Shaw, Smith, Palmer, Dorsey, Kerns

2009 - Hunter, Scott, Moore, Finau, Spiker, Weingart, Davenport, Long, Busick, Snook, Heastie

2010 - Forte, Chambers, Leslie, Brunetti, J. Johnson, T. Johnson, Wallace, Kemoeatu, Long

2011 - Lucas*, Haughton-James*, Jackson, Bradley, Johnson, Athey, Ve. Roberts, Va. Roberts

* - Offensive Lineman who didn't play much this past season but were on the two-deep

Attrition happens everywhere, let's not kid ourselves about that. But look at these percentages of players not making a difference:

2008 - 12 of 27, 44%

2009 - 11 of 26, 42%

2010 - 9 of 21, 43%

2011 - 6 of 22, 27% (if you remove the 2 OL guys listed on the two deep)

Removing those two lineman from 2011, 38 out of 96 didn't pan out for a rate of 40%. If you're over-signing large classes every year, this basically compensates for itself. But when you only take 21 and 22 for two consecutive years, you've lost more than one whole recruiting class in a three year cycle from 2009 to 2011.

From what I've been able to find out, losing roughly a third of a class is normal, but that's over a four year period (a poster HERE has the best breakdown I could find). Most of the guys I've listed above didn't even make it past year one, and in many cases not at all. Also, keep in mind that the rates posted HERE are from some of the best recruiting schools in the country and some of the most notorious over-signers, of which WVU can not be lumped in with in this time frame.

Have you noticed how small our list of seniors has been the last two senior days (2008 & 2009 recruiting classes)?

Players listed in parentheses were walk-ons (at some point), recruited by Holgorsen (JUCO) later or were just plain transfers...not part of the above recruiting classes.

2012 - 22 Seniors: (Nehlen, Lageman, Level, Moro, Cadwell, Smith, Miller)

2013 - 15 Seniors (Sims, Ezemma, Marable, Majnaric, Anderson, Gourdine)

Taking out the 13 listed there, only 23 players from the 2008 & 2009 classes made it that far. 23 of 53 made it. That's an unreal attrition rate of 57%.

Here's where I initially was going to conclude this.

Then I talked to Abpriddy and he suggested I list the numbers for the previous two senior classes. That's when I realized the argument many of us had been positing was wrong.

Here are the senior class numbers going back to 2007 (2007 because 2002 is as far back as Scout & Rivals still has commitments archived for public, easy access. ie 2002 recruits = 2006 seniors & 2007 red shirt seniors):

2013 - 15 seniors, 9 recruited

2012 - 23 seniors, 15 recruited

2011 - 20 seniors, 9 recruited

2010 - 20 seniors, 17 recruited

2009 - 24 seniors, 13 recruited

2008 - 20 seniors, 14 recruited

2007 - 19 seniors, 8 recruited

(Seniors as listed by year on, then only counted the last year player was listed, for example: Reed Williams was listed as a senior in both 2008 & 2009, I only counted him as a senior in 2009)

Here are Coach Holgorsen's recruiting classes:

2012 2013
Imarjaye Albury Al-Rasheed Benton*
Christian Brown* Ronald Carswell
Roshard Burney Hodari Christian*
Ford Childress Shelton Gibson*
Terry Clayton Brandon Golson*
Travares Copeland Malik Greaves*
K.J. Dillon* Marvin Gross*
Mark Glowinski* d'Vante Henry
Jarrod Harper* Darrien Howard*
Korey Harris Dontrill Hyman*
Garrett Hope* Marcell Lazard*
Will Johnson Grant Lingafelter*
Karl Joseph* jacky Marcellus*
Darreal Joyner Isaac McDonald*
Eric Kinsey* Nick O'Toole*
Nana Kyeremeh* Chavas Rawlins
Josh Lambert* Daikiel Shorts*
Sam Lebbie Wendell Smallwood*
Devonte Mathis* Dreamius Smith*
Tony Matteo* Tyler Tezeno*
Doentay McManus Jeremy Tyler*
Brandon Napoleon* Stone Underwood*
Noble Nwachukwu* Elijah Wellman*
Tyler Orlosky* Kevin White*
Adam Pankey* Darryl Worley*
Devonte Robinson
Ricky Rumph*
Jordan Thompson*
Sean Walters*

*denotes still with the team or graduated

Eleven of Holgorsen's first class of 29 have already gone for a attrition rate of 38% but only 3 of his second class (26) are not currently listed for an attrition rate of 11.5%. For this I used the current roster listed on

One last wave of researched information to go (0-5 columns designate years on roster).

(percentages here are the ones that made it, as opposed to the numbers in the first section with numbers of those who didn't)

Recruiting Class of # of Recruits 0 1 2 3 4 5 used up eligibility % used up eligibility 3+ yrs % 3+ yrs
2002 29 5 4 3 5 8 4 13 44.8% 17
2003 22 4 3 6 2 1 6 9
40.9% 9
2004 24 5 6 2 2 9 0 10
2005 32 5 3 3 7 6 8 14
2006 16 3 1 4 1 2 5 7
2007 28 6 2 5 2 7 6 17
2008 27 6 2 4 3 4 8 16
2009 26 6 4 2 3 11 0 11
2010+ 21 6 2 4 2 6 1 8 38.1%
9* 42.9%*
2011+ 22 2 3 1 10 6 X X X 16* 72.7%*
2012+ 29 6 4 5 14 X X X X X X
2013+ 26 1 2 23 X X X X X X X
totals 2002-2009
204 46 25

*projected, based on current roster and assuming they all make it through 2014

+omitted from totals due to incomplete eligibility numbers

You can see the yearly breakdowns in the linked images below showing each class (which demonstrates used up eligibility better for four-year players and JUCO transfers). There are some cases where a recruited player may have only appeared on the roster for three years, but may have graduated on time (with a redshirt year, or just a fast student) and decided not to play out his eligibility. This stat is hard to track.

Click on the year to see the class breakdown.

2002 2003 2004 2005
2006 2007 2008 2009
2010 2011 2012 2013

It may be of note that of the 7 players who signed two Letters-of-Intent (counting against two separate classes), only one, Andrae Wright, ever even made it to the roster.

The numbers don't lie. WVU has had a problem recruiting players who would either complete their eligibility or even last 3 years on the roster. These are crazy numbers. 2011 shows that it is starting to get better, but that's still making assumptions at this point.

In order to put this into a bit of perspective, I reached out to Chris Anderson of EerSports, who helps us with our "Signing Musket" updates and asked him these questions:

I'm working on researching recruiting and the amount of attrition WVU has faced in the last 10-12 years. Some of the numbers I'm seeing are downright scary and not just a class here and there. Holgorsen is obviously somewhat aware of this, but what can be done to correct this?

What is being done? We obviously have to recruit our way out of this trend, but is there some sort of strategy that can be employed?

Is it simply a matter of getting better overall rounded athletes (academics or something else perhaps) or maybe better fits to the individual program culture (for lack of a better term)?

What is your take on the national average? My limited research has found that roughly 33% seems to be the norm and acceptable. Does this sound about right to you?

Chris Anderson: The coaching staff has already begun taking steps to correct this problem, and the first move they made was tightening up requirements needed to actually accept a commitment in the first place. In the 2012 class, several players (including arguably the three best recruits - Deontay McManus, Sam Lebbie and Roshard Burney) never even made it to Morgantown. For 2013, you saw that change. The staff was much tougher on academics, and only two players didn't make it in - DeShawn Coleman and Marquion Lane - and neither of them were even allowed to sign a Letter of Intent. That's continued into the 2014 class, as several players have been turned away due to grades, and there is very little concern over academics with the vast majority of the current commits.

I feel finding high schoolers who are academically prepared for college is important, but it's really more about being able to manage your time. The life of a student-athlete is tough in college. There is very little time to screw around. Even in high school when kids were working out or practicing year-round, they still had time to go out with friends, go to the beach, etc. Now they need to better manage their time, and do so without parental supervision. Some young men just can't handle that. Heck, that doesn't even apply to just athletes, of course.

As for the other part of the equation, I suppose "culture" is a good term to use. Really, it's just the distance from home factor for so many of these kids. Not only are they running into different types of people with different customs, different food, different ways of life, etc... they're also 15-20 hours from home, without the funds or time to fly back more often. I think it's part of the reason why there may be slightly more turnover at WVU than at other schools.

As for the 33-percent figure, that sounds about right to me, maybe a bit high. With an 85-scholarship limit, that would mean each class is 17-21 guys (depending on number of redshirts). However, very rarely do you see schools sign fewer than 23-25 a class. That's a handful of guys in every class that are likely on their way out before they're done with school.

I also wanted to include total number of scholarship players on the roster for the last several years (i.e. using 77 of the 85 available NCAA limit), but that data isn't readily available because lists of former walk-ons earning scholarships is hard to come by and yearly rosters don't denote scholarship players vs. walk-ons.

This is a lot of information, I realize, but things do look to be getting better, but it is going to take some more time. One more successful recruiting cycle will certainly help and it should build from there. If you take the time to digest the numbers and charts, you can see that this is a problem going back to at least Coach Rodriguez, maybe further. It was a strategy that may have worked in the Big East, but it's clearly a big obstacle to overcome in the Big 12, no matter who the coach may be.

References used in this article were the commitment lists on BlueGoldNews (Scout) and WVSports (Rivals), as well as the historical rosters on and the current roster on Here is a link to the full spreadsheet of data I worked up. Any errors or omissions are unintentional. If you note them in the comments, I will happily fix them.