MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As MetroNews continues sizing up West Virginia’s class of 2014 recruiting class, our series shifts to linebackers.
Once again, we’re joined by WVSports.com senior writer Keenan Cummings, who focuses on recruiting for the Rivals network. He appraises a collection of linebacking targets drawing West Virginia’s attention:
Inside linebacker • Springfield (Ohio) High
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound James is a three-star Rivals prospect and teammate of receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass, who committed to Kentucky over numerous major-college offers. The Springfield program previously produced Alabama junior linebacker Trey DePriest, projected as an early-round NFL draft pick next season.
“James visited Morgantown during spring practice and left with the Mountaineers as one of the leaders,” Cummings said. “The athletic linebacker was particularly impressed with the coaching style of the staff and expects to make a decision sometime during the summer. James expects to return to Morgantown at some point before he makes that decision.”
With offers from Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois and Georgia Tech, James will have numerous options. Video highlights of his sophomore season show James’ playmaking ability.
Outside linebacker • Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) High
Another three-star prospect, the 6-foot, 210-pound Williams has offers from WVU, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Boston College, Cincinnati, USF and scores of smaller FBS programs.
“Williams has watched his recruitment skyrocket during the spring evaluation period, but West Virginia is one of the schools that has his attention,” Cummings said. “Running backs coach JaJuan Seider is the lead recruiter and Williams plans to visit this summer. A very versatile linebacker prospect, Williams has played almost every position on his high school team, ranging from cornerback to defensive line. College coaches have been impressed with his ability to flip his hips in pass coverage as well as his nose for the football.”
Check out video of Williams’ junior season here.
Star/inside linebacker • Tampa (Fla.) Catholic
Possessing 4.5 speed, Harrell is a 6-1, 210-pounder with 28 offers from FBS programs, including UCLA, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Syracuse, Michigan State, and N.C.State. Rivals rates him the No. 22 athlete prospect in the nation.
“One of the most versatile prospects on the West Virginia recruiting board, Harrell is being recruited for positions all over the football field, including several major offers at running back,” Cummings said. “Harrell has developed a close bond with lead recruiter Joe DeForest and expects to make a stop in Morgantown at some point later in the process. Harrell is familiar with the success of the West Virginia program over the years, but the multi-talented athlete wants to see it in person.”
During an interview with SBNation in April, Harrell said West Virginia also was interested in him as a receiver. Other schools have suggested he’ll make a better safety. Here is video of Harrell on both sides of the ball.
Linebacker • Buford (Ga.)
Schools such as Southern Miss, South Florida, UCF and East Carolina are recruiting Neal, a 6-2, 190-pounder who plays for one of Georgia’s small-school dynasties. In a six-classification state, Buford won the AAA crown last season after winning the AA title seven times in the previous 11 years.
“West Virginia has been the school recruiting Neal the hardest and although he’s not quite ready to name a leader, it’s safe to assume that the Mountaineers are in good position,” Cummings said. “Neal has the size and the speed to move sideline to sideline and has enough athleticism that schools are targeting him at wide receiver. Neal expects to take several visits this summer, including a trip to West Virginia, and plans to make his decision known before the start of his senior year.”
A video highlight showing Neal’s explosiveness at receiver last season.
Jakevin Jackson and LeGrande Harley
Inside/Star linebackers • Georgia Military College
Jackson (6-3, 225) and Harley (6-1, 220) were teammates last season alongside Mario Alford and Brandon Golson — 2013 West Virginia signees that assistant coach Tony Gibson flipped from Arizona. Now Gibson is once again recruiting the Georgia juco program that has produced 15 NFL players since 1995.
“Both junior college linebackers will have three years to play two,” Cummings said. “Both are highly interested in West Virginia and have impressed with their athleticism and natural instincts.”
Kansas State and Cincinnati have offered Jackson, but Cummings said WVU currently is the frontrunner. Capable of playing inside or outside, Jackson expects to announce his college decision June 10.
Harley, who Cummings said plans to visit Morgantown June 4, has offers from Arizona State and Georgia State.