MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three weeks before college football’s national signing day, West Virginia owns 19 commitments. How many are reliable, and what players are Mountaineers coaches pursuing to fill the remaining spots?
To size up the end days of 2014 recruiting, MetroNews consulted two guys who go prospecting 365 days each year—Rivals writer Keenan Cummings of WVSports.com and Scout’s Kevin Kinder of BlueGoldNews.com. Both recruiting services generally agree on the strength of program’s current class: Rivals ranks the Mountaineers 43rd nationally, Scout places them 45th and each has WVU sixth in the Big 12 behind Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech.
With WVU yet to secure a running back commitment for the class of 2014, let’s discuss Donte Thomas-Williams out of Durham, N.C.
Cummings: He’s a bigger running back who can do it all. He can be that running back that can carry the ball 25 times a game, but can also make things happen in the pass game.
Kinder: He’s that bigger-body guy, the kind of guy that Dana Hologorsen had at Oklahoma State that could pound it up in there but also had some breakaway speed. He’s not a threat like Noel Devine, but he can use those seams for big gainers. He’s really built for the way West Virginia tries to run the ball.”
What other programs realistically could land Thomas-Williams?
Kinder: North Carolina State is the main competition at this point. It’s pretty much the Mountaineers and the Wolfpack at this point. So unless something changes, it’s going to come down to this two schools. He visited (Florida State) but the Seminoles have gotten some other running backs.
Safe to say Thomas-Williams is the most-wanted target out there for West Virginia?
Kinder:“I don’t think it’s any secret—he’s the guy they’ve got to get. He’s the target everybody’s looking for.”
Cummings: Out of the prospects remaining on the board, he is right at the top. He is a prospect the Mountaineers targeted early in the process and have paid a lot of attention to. Thomas-Williams will visit this weekend and has a teammate, receiver Trevion Thompson, who also is highly rated. Thompson will be visiting Jan. 24 and the Mountaineers would love to add both.
The chase for Trevion Thompson is interesting considering WVU has two receivers pledged for 2014 and two more committed for next year. He’s also weighing Clemson, Ohio State, North Carolina and N.C. State.
Kinder: He’s a special kind of guy. He’s 6-3 and about 190 pounds and he’s got a couple different things going for him. He goes up and high-points the ball pretty well, uses his size well. I think he has some abilities that he has developed quicker than a lot of other high school receivers that you see.”
West Virginia has two defensive linemen committed, but obviously covets more. With six or seven scholarship spots open, how many more might Holgorsen’s staff devote to the D-line?
Cummings: I think West Virginia would like to add two on the defensive line. Right now the one to definitely watch is Georgia Military College defensive end Kenderius Whitehead, given the fact that he has the Mountaineers on top of his recruitment and only has one visit scheduled to Morgantown (Jan. 24). Fellow juco defensive end Terry Ayeni is scheduled to visit Jan. 31, while WVU is making a play on current Louisville commitment Rashawn Shaw for a possible visit.
Regarding Washington, D.C., prospect Daejuan Funderburk, is he a must-get at safety for WVU? And might D’Cota Dixon of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., be a sufficient consolation prize?
Cummings: Both are very talented players, but West Virginia is in a very good position to land Funderburk, who will announce his college choice Friday before he sets off on an official visit to Morgantown. The Mountaineers need a free safety in this class and the rangy Funderburk fits that bill. If West Virginia does in fact land Funderburk, the question becomes whether the Mountaineers continue to pursue Dixon to see if they can get set up an official visit.
Time to talk flipping: Which of the 19 commitments is West Virginia in jeopardy of losing?
Cummings: The one player to really watch in the next couple weeks is offensive line commitment Josh Krok. The 6-foot-8 offensive tackle has been getting a strong push by Kentucky and he’s scheduled to visit there this weekend before heading back to West Virginia the weekend of Jan. 24. If Krok ends up making that visit to Kentucky, West Virginia might need to impress him again with the things he liked about Morgantown the first time.
Every recruiting cycle is crucial, but with WVU trying to bounce back from its first losing season since 2001, how do you gauge this class?
Kinder: I think West Virginia’s going to be in the upper half of the Big 12. I think West Virginia has really met its needs so far in this class. Obviously, they need to close things out—they need another defensive back, and another defensive lineman or two would be nice. But it’s really strong at the cornerback position and at safety. They’ve gotten some linebackers that have some speed—guys like Edward Muldrow who’s already in and Xavier Preston—and some bigger thumpers like Davonte James. Offensive line obviously is very deep, with very five very quality prospects. Trying to evaluate it honestly, I do really think it’s a step up from previous classes.
Finally, a look-ahead to 2015, where there’s some buzz building.