The past two recruiting classes have been very solid for West Virginia, addressing a wide area of needs and suffering minimal attrition. This, coupled with the fact that the staff also has a full compliment of 85 scholarship players on the roster for the first time, will give the luxury of selectivity in the 2016 class.
That being said open spring practices have been highlighting areas of greater need that will have to be prioritized accordingly. The first that really jumped out was the running back position, as despite the talent the transfers of Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie left a lack of depth for the upcoming season. The move of Jacky Marcellus and Elijiah Wellman helped to alleviate that issue presently, but at least one back needs to be brought in this cycle as well.
Quarterback will be another area of concern. Yes, we brought in a JUCO and a 4 star in 2014 then two 3 stars in 2015 (not to mention a couple solid instate walk-ons). But right now no one has proven anything yet and sometimes the best way to create separation is to add competition. Hopefully someone currently on the roster will pan out and be the next great WVU quarterback, but similar wishful thinking (Ford Childress...) helped contribute to the current situation. At least one scholarship quarterback will likely be added in the current cycle, and with the news that Tyrhee Pratt will be coming on as an athlete that spot is still open.
Rex Culpepper, 6'3" 215 lbs., received an offer from West Virginia a few weeks ago and his style of play would be an excellent fit in Dana's offense. His play is reminiscent of Geno's (and a lot of FL HS quarterbacks to be honest) in the sense that he is a pass first, pro-style quarterback with the athletic ability to tuck and run or roll out of the pocket with ease.
I didn't have my measuring stick on me or anything but I happened to see him play last season and he looked all of 6'3" then so I doubt he has gotten shorter. His high school plays big-time football and produces serious talent as well as plays serious talent ever year. The athleticism is definitely there as well along with the football IQ (his dad is an ex-NFL player so add pedigree to that as well). His deep balls tend to fall short but they drop in nicely and his short to intermediate passes are darts. Most people are predicting Florida as the heavy favorites but the offense will be very attractive to him. He made the trip up to West Virginia for a quick visit last week and word on the Twitterverse is that it went pretty well so WVU could have just become a dark horse contender.
Tampa QB Rex Culpepper said he had a "great" visit to #WestVirginia. http://t.co/VNXjCPplMf @PlantFootball @CMAnderson247 @joshnewberg247— Ryan Bartow (@RyanBartow) April 12, 2015
Beyond quarterback, the defensive line and wide-receiver positions could both use an influx of depth and talent. To be fair there are some incoming prospects from the 2015 class that have serious promise. After hearing Dana say that Alec Shriner benches 600 lbs. coming out of high school, I am itching to see what he can bring to the table at nose or defensive tackle. Tim Jennings looks great on film and he could be an answer on the outside at wide-receiver. That being said adding depth will stave off worries caused by the injury bug and/or suspensions and increasing the level of competition is what will continue to improve the program as a whole.
Steven Smothers is still the top target at wide-receiver and WVU is still his leader, but his commitment is one that will hopefully wrap up sooner rather than later if for peace of mind alone. He is a serious talent and its only fair that he will want to weigh his many options before deciding, which personally I would greatly prefer over committing/decommitting all around town. It will be interesting to see where Tyrhee Pratt ends up, as he has the abilities to play the wide-receiver, safety, or running back positions very well at the next level. Need would indicate wide receiver, but if not then that would further increase the pressure to lock down Smothers.
The longer his recruitment goes the more different schools will have a chance to pitch him and muddy the waters. He went on a recent visit to Rutgers which apparently went well but isn't too much of a cause for concern. However an unofficial visit with his mother to Penn State today is, it better be terrible (hopefully at least). A good visit today wouldn't necessarily change his leader, but PSU could certainly jump into the picture.
One offer out at defensive tackle is particularly intriguing, and that award goes to Kevin McCary of Daytona Beach, FL. Listed at 6'1" 265 lbs., he is a little under-sized by prototypical standards but plays with great speed and leverage. He consistently gets low and rocks his man under the chin. The effort is there as well and you can see him making real hustle plays on film.
McCary also plays all over the defensive front and that versatility should pay dividends in helping him break into rotation earlier. His athleticism and speed reminds me a bit of a DT named Chris Nelson that Charlie Strong recruited out of Florida two years ago who has already contributed more to Texas early on than some of his 4 star counterparts. With his current frame I could see him shaping out very similarly to Noble Nwachukwu at the college level. If he can play with the same speed and effort, I expect he will have similar success as well. The aforementioned Alec Shriner is a great start, but hopefully the staff can add this kid to the mix as well. The race is on between WVU and UNC right now, but never count out the Mountaineers when it comes to recruiting Florida boys.