West Virginia couldn’t land receiver Tyler Boyd, and junior college quarterback Tanner McEvoy chose Wisconsin, but the Mountaineers’ coaching staff left National Signing Day with plenty of smiles after reeling in the school’s highest-ranked class since 2007.
Dana Holgorsen brought in playmaking replacements to keep his Air Raid offense soaring, along with 11 defensive signees expected to help WVU stop other teams’ playmakers for a change.
“For one day, it’s safe to say that the West Virginia coaches hit a home run with this class. It’s also a strong mix of junior college and prep talent, and this group should produce many immediate contributors.”— Keenan Cummings of Rivals website WVSports.com
On the heels of classes that Rivals ranked 47th and 48th respectively the past two years, West Virginia cast a wide net to sign some elite junior college talent. Keenan Cummings, senior writer for the Rivals website WVSports.com, said it compares favorably to the 27th-ranked 2009 class that was heavy on future stars (Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey) though severely impacted by attrition.
“For one day, it’s safe to say that the West Virginia coaches hit a home run with this class,” Cummings said. “Obviously those rankings don’t mean anything other than a grade on a piece of paper until the players make it to campus.
“Holgorsen mentioned the need for secure pass rushers and playmakers in this class, and like him, I think the coaches did an excellent job of that. It’s also a strong mix of junior college and prep talent, and this group should produce many immediate contributors.”
The mid-January additions of assistant coaches Tony Gibson and Lonnie Galloway paid dividends.
“I think both assistant coaches will only add to the overall product for the Mountaineers, because both have built great resumes as recruiters,” Cummings said.
“The one extremely important factor for West Virginia is the fact that both coaches have been here before and understand what it’s like to recruit to and for the Mountaineers. It’s also a huge bonus that both coaches know the landscape regionally and can help West Virginia reconnect in key areas such as Pennsylvania and Maryland.”
Gibson, in particular, has embraced his primary role as a roster-builder. He’ll also coach WVU’s safeties.
“Gibson’s reputation as a good recruiter has definitely been earned over the years and it starts with his ability to connect not only with the prospects, but their families,” Cummings said. “For instance, (on Wednesday) Gibson spoke about recruiting not only Mario Alford and Brandon Golson, but getting their families on board with West Virginia and exposing their families to the program and what to expect. Relationships are everything in recruiting and Gibson understands that well.”
SIGNING DAY HOLDOUTS
Three West Virginia commitments have not signed their letters-of-intent, leaving their situations murky.
Jacky Marcellus (Immokalee, Fla.) and DeShawn Coleman (Hermitage, Pa.) — both three-star running backs —committed before their senior seasons. Three-star prospect Marquion Lane (DeLand, Fla.), the only cornerback in WVU’s class, chose the Mountaineers on signing day over Miami, Louisville, Arkansas, Nebraska and Michigan State.
“There is definitely potential for all three to join WVU and the trio would be a welcomed addition to the current class,” Cumming said. “But it’s my understanding that they need to take care of some business first — either in the classroom or other areas.”
Three-star signee Chavis Rawlins doesn’t fit the pocket-passer profile of Holgorsen’s previous quarterbacks, and the coach likes it that way. With junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress at the head of the line to replace Geno Smith, Holgorsen wants to see what Rawlins can add to the quarterback position with his mobility.
“We wanted to bring in somebody who was a little bit different than what we already had,” Holgorsen said. “These guys (Millard and Childress) are just pocket guys, we know that. So with Chavis, he’s able to come in and bring us some versatility and athleticism at that position. And he was a local kid who wanted to be a Mountaineer real bad, so we told him he was going to be the only quarterback that’s going to be in this class.”