MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — Even as West Virginia aims to capitalize on a rare banner year for in-state football talent, Saturday’s news that Spring Valley offensive lineman Riley Locklear committed to Tennessee was a disappointment Mountaineers coaches anticipated.
“Locklear’s family are big Marshall people, and his brother plays there, so he didn’t grow up a WVU fan,” said Rivals recruiting writer Keenan Cummings of WVSports.com.
“That was always going to be an uphill battle. Odds were he was never coming to West Virginia. He apparently was going to FSU or Tennessee.”
Indeed, 247Sports analysts gave Florida State a 57 percent chance of landing Locklear, followed by Tennessee and Penn State.
With 18 Power Five schools in pursuit, the three-star Locklear is among a six-pack of in-state seniors attracting multiple major-college offers in 2017. That’s one more than the state yielded in the previous five years combined.
“It’s almost an unheard of year,” Cummings said.
West Virginia, which typically pulls most of its signees from surrounding states and Florida, hopes to keep at least few of the players home. Already aboard is three-star Morgantown linebacker Maverick Wolfley, a legacy recruit who committed as a high school freshman in 2014.
The most likely additions are four-star South Charleston safety Derrek Pitts and three-star Capital linebacker Dorian Etheridge. Pitts has West Virginia in his top four with Florida, Tennessee and Penn State. Etheridge appears to be deciding between WVU—the first Power Five school to offer him in January 2015—along with Louisville, Virginia Tech and Maryland.
“West Virginia has built great relationships with both those guys and they got on them early,” said Cummings, who reported that Pitts and Etheridge plan to return to Morgantown July 23 for the Showtime Camp.
Another sought-after offensive lineman, Huntington three-star prospect Billy Ross, has been a longtime priority for West Virginia assistants Tony Gibson and Ron Crook. Yet recruiting analysts suggest Ross is favoring North Carolina, Tennessee or Florida State, where former Mountaineers assistant Rick Trickett is his lead recruiter.
Marshall commitment Seth Stewart, a 6-foot-8 offensive tackle from Point Pleasant, has offers from WVU, Pitt and Arkansas.
“It’s important to get these in-state players because they are rare,” Cummings said. “Those homegrown guys care about it a lot—it’s obvious. They’ve grown up in it, so they don’t have to get to know West Virginia.
“Overall, West Virginia probably should get three of the six. That would be considered successful because you’re taking about some top-level players.”