Recruiting is the lifeblood of college coaches. Yes you need to be able to scheme, manage the game, and schmooze the boosters but if you can’t recruit, then you are working against a stacked deck. For the past few seasons, Dana Holgorsen’s ability to recruit has come into question, bringing in classes that have ranked in the mid-30s on Rivals.com and 247Sports.com . Last year, in part because of contract negotiations that did not take place until later in the season, Dana and his staff pulled in his worst ranked class as a head coach.
This year, however, the staff has turned things around with a class that has the chance to be the best class ever signed at WVU, at least according to Rivals.com.
West Virginia Recruiting Ranks By Year
The most impressive portion of this year’s class is the amount of high school players included. In 2014, West Virginia had a solid class that was going to be a foundation for the school as it began to fill out its roster to compete in the Big 12. Unfortunately, the top end targets in that 2014 class did not pan out. When you look at the 2014 class, the star was Dravon Askew-Henry, then as you begin to go down the list you see player after player who did not pan out: Donte Thomas-Williams, William Crest, Ricky Rogers, etc.
That 2014 class bled over into the 2015 class. The top two stars for the 2015 class didn’t pan out: Tyrek Cole and Jovon Durante. While those two didn’t work out there are others as well: Stone Wolfley, Larry Jefferson, and Jordan Adams.
The downside of those two classes is that the coaching staff was then forced to rely on JUCO transfers to help fill out the roster and the holes left by players not performing. Dana Holgorsen has done a good job of supplementing the roster with JUCO talent but ultimately, a top notch college program is built from the high school players who stay with the school 4-5 years.
This year’s class is made up of 19 high school players and the team is already at 22 commitments. The coaching staff has made a more concerted effort to focus on the high school talent.
Four star players like Dante Stills and Kwantel Raines are almost assured of starting as freshman and becoming instant players. The staff focused on getting bigger along the offensive line with tackle Oyenmwen Uzebu and Blaine Scott, both of whom are over 300 pounds. They brought in a massive nose tackle in James Gmitmer at 300 pounds who can help anchor the 3-3-5.
With this class, the staff has been able to capitalize on the first 10-win season as a member of the Big 12. 2018 presents an unique opportunity for the school as it [hopefully] returns its starting quarterback in Will Grier along with most of its receivers and running backs. On the defensive side, for the first time since 2013, Tony Gibson will not be required to replace all of his defensive units. The power schools in the Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys and TCU Horned Frogs all have to replace a senior quarterback. Growing pains are a part of college and it could mean WVU can catch these schools as they need to break in new starters.
If the staff is able to turn 2018 into a special year, you could see a 2020 recruiting class that rivals this class. That would give the school an influx of talent that it has never seen before and could be the step necessary to making a leap in the Big 12.