MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia quarterback commitment Chris Chugunov has heard a few recruiting pitches, and not just from college coaches.
Some of New Jersey’s powerhouse prep programs reportedly made it clear they would welcome Chugunov’s transfer. Yet the senior from Skillman, N.J., hasn’t been tempted to leave Montgomery High, a school that has produced one Division I signee in its 12-year history.
“There are some big-time programs in our area that said ‘We want you to come play here and you’ll get 10 times the exposure,’” he said. “But I grew up playing ball with my boys at Montgomery and I’m not going to leave them to chase a scholarship somewhere else.”
Chugunov claims his chase is over after pledging to West Virginia.
“Coach (Shannon) Dawson said my film was good, but in person the ball just flies off my hand. I was throwing some 18-yard comebacks from the opposite hash and he said, ‘You make it look easy.’” — West Virginia commitment Chris Chugunov
While 14 FCS schools had been recruiting the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, his lone major-college offer came last Sunday after a passing camp in Morgantown. The Rivals three-star prospect said Mountaineers coaches asked him to commit immediately, and he followed through 24 hours later upon returning home and discussing the decision with family members.
Chugunov caught West Virginia’s attention during the spring evaluation period as offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson made the rounds.
“He came over here in May to watch me, when there were a bunch of FCS-level coaches on hand but no other FBS guys,” Chugunov said. “Coach Dawson said my film was good, but in person the ball just flies off my hand. I was throwing some 18-yard comebacks from the opposite hash and he said, ‘You make it look easy.’
“He said he wanted me to go down to the camp at West Virginia and show the other coaches the same thing I showed him.”
As the first quarterback committed to the Mountaineers’ 2015 class, Chugunov said Dawson left the door open to signing another.
“He’s not sure whether they’re going to take one or two quarterbacks this year, but either way it doesn’t matter,” Chugunov said. “I’m expecting to have to go in there and compete at my best.”
West Virginia’s roster features two senior quarterbacks in Clint Trickett and Paul Millard, along with sophomore transfer Skyler Howard and freshman newcomer William Crest, a four-star recruit laden with star potential.
Chugunov interacted with Crest at a few recruiting events last year and said, “He seemed like a really cool kid.”
WVU GAMBLES ON OVERLOOKED QB
Montgomery High coach Zolan Milich spotted Chugunov’s potential in middle school and has watched him develop as a starter during back-to-back winning seasons.
During an appearance on MetroNews “Sportsline,” Milich said major-conference programs overlooked a legitimate prospect.
“We’re not a powerhouse, but there are parochial schools in North Jersey that are powerhouses, and if Chris was there, he would have 20 to 30 offers,” the coach said. “But he wanted to make sure that we became winners.”
That loyalty hasn’t surfaced merely in the win column. The highlight film Dawson and other FBS recruiters saw was lacking some of Chugunov’s most impressive deep throws—omitted at his insistence because teammates dropped them.
Despite Milich encouraging him to include the plays, Chugunov said, “I didn’t want to give anybody bad publicity.”
“The FCS schools were all flying in there and said ‘We think he’s a BCS kid and we don’t understand why he doesn’t have 20 offers.’” — Chugunov’s high school coach Zoran Milich
Syracuse reportedly was among the major programs reluctant to be the first to offer Chugunov. “They told me, ‘If someone offers him, let us know,’” Milich said. “With the BCS guys, it’s follow the leader.
“The FCS schools were all flying in there and said ‘We think he’s a BCS kid and we don’t understand why he doesn’t have 20 offers.’”
Regardless of whether WVU’s confidence convinces other schools to follow suit, Chugunov pronounced his recruitment closed. Now he’s focused on his senior season and playing with his boys at Montgomery.
“Hopefully,” he said, “we can pull it all together this season.”