When the top program in a state offers an in-state prospect, the chances are good he will join that school. It isn’t a given but, generally speaking, the chances are good.
West Virginia doesn’t always produce a large volume of FBS quality players. This year the state has produced 8 young men who are ranked by 247sports and will likely receive FBS offers from Power 5 schools. WVU has only received two commitments from those 8 players, so why aren’t the kids flocking to the home state school?
This recruiting cycle has not gone as well as #WVU would have hoped so far in-state but I've seen people suggest this is common. It isn't.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) July 30, 2016
Since 2004 #WVU has offered 26 in-state players and 21 of those have committed and signed with the Mountaineers.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) July 30, 2016
Those five are Ryan Switzer, Conner Kornbrath, Corey Smith, Allan Wasonga and Tyrhee Pratt.— Keenan Cummings (@rivalskeenan) July 30, 2016
Since 2004, if WVU wanted an in-state prospect, they usually enrolled at WVU. Corey Smith, who committed to Alabama, eventually transferred back to WVU. Tyrhee Pratt was originally committed to WVU.
So what is so different about this year? Why isn’t WVU, who is coming off an 8-win season, not reeling in state prospects? Why isn’t WVU, with another senior defensive unit and this time a senior offensive unit, not getting kids who could pursue playing time early?
Despite being a relatively small state (41st in total area and land area), there is a distinctive northern and southern part of the state. West Virginians who grow up in the southern part of the state aren’t always as die-hard Mountaineer fans as those who grew up in the northern portions.
Especially problematic is the other school in the state, Marshall. Located in Huntington, any prospect who comes from the western part of the state most likely grows up wanting to wear green.
WVU’s location is much different than other “state-flag” schools. State College, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; College Park, Maryland; all of these schools are located near the center of the state.
Did location play a part in this year’s prospects not choosing WVU? Half of this year’s prospects hail from the southern half of the state. Another prospect hails from the far western portion of the state.
Legacy and parent alumni status play a major factor for all kids. WVU was able to flip the commitment of Darius Stills, based in part because his dad played here. That isn’t true for everyone in the state. Seth Stewart, a LSU commit, doesn’t have any direct ties to WVU. Neither does Derrick Pitts. Nothing monumental separates WVU from the host of other schools in the region if that tie doesn’t exist. So far, both in-state commitments are legacy players, Maverick Wolfley and Darius Stills.
Is this the elephant in the room that no one is talking about? While every school is going to use whatever bit of information it can to convince a player that school X isn’t the right fit for him. However, there is a major difference between “We don’t believe you fit with the type of system they run” and “Are you sure you want to go to WVU? The Athletic Director doesn’t believe in the head coach. Dana’s a lame duck walking. He’ll be gone and you’ll be stuck with a new coach.” That is a hell of a speech to tell a kid.
If a player is located within the state, he most likely has more access to the stories and comments about the head coach. It doesn’t take much to run a quick google search about WVU to see quotes and headlines about the Athletic Director pulling out of contract negotiations.
Out of state kids can’t watch the local news and get a 5 minute segment on WVU every night like in-state players can.
Would WVU have been better served by not mentioning the contract extension/talks had reached a stalemate? When asked by reporters or members of the media, should Dana Holgorsen and Shane Lyons have just said talks are always on going and left it at that? Maybe the uncertainty keeps the door open for player and WVU is able to secure another player or two.