Where West Virginia stands on its top targets for 2018

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On the heels of a 51st-ranked recruiting class in 2017, West Virginia’s football staff has two primary reasons to believe it can produce a better haul in 2018.That 10-win season, for one, and a more stable head coaching scenario thanks to Dana Holgorsen’s contract extension.

Among the top targets on West Virginia’s board are Fairmont defensive line legacy Dante Stills, Delaware running back Leddie Brown, New Jersey quarterback Devin Leary and four-star safety Kwantel Raines of Aliquippa, Pa.

As part of the Gold & Blue Lunch Report, Rivals recruiting Keenan Cummings discussed each player and West Virginia’s chances of landing him:

Kwantel Raines (6-3, 180) safety
From the same school that produced Dravon Askew-Henry in 2014, Rivals ranks Raines the No. 5 safety in the class and No. 129 prospect overall.

“He has a great relationship with (defensive coordinator) Tony Gibson, but that is a kid who’s going to tough to get,” Cummings said. “He’s an impact player who could change West Virginia’s class.”

Raines’ spate of offers includes LSU, Florida, Michigan State, Virginia Tech and South Carolina, but signs point toward a localized competition between Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia.

“It’s always kind of that triumvirate when you’re talking about kids from that area, and I think you’re going to see it play out the way,” Cummings said.

Leddie Brown (6-1, 190) running back
Brown played at the now-defunct Eastern Christian Academy — which supplied WVU with Wendell Smallwood, Daikiel Shorts and David Sills — before helping Smyrna High win the 2016 Delaware state championship.

“He would have been considered a lock before Ja’Juan Seider left for Florida,” said Cummings. ”West Virginia was the first school to offer him and they’ve had him on campus a bunch, but a lot of recruiting is relationships. Whether kids want to admit it or not, a lot of times they pick the schools due to the coaches.”

Seider’s new school, Florida, offered the three-star Brown last week. Seider’s replacement at West Virginia, newly hired running backs coach Tony Dews, will no doubt make Brown a priority.

“Explosive player,” Cummings said. “If you watch his tape it’s going to remind you so much of Wendell Smallwood.”

Devin Leary (6-2, 185) quarterback
West Virginia didn’t sign a quarterback in the 2017 class, making it a necessity for the next cycle. New offensive coordinator Jake Spavital is building a relationship with several players, including Leary, a three-star prospect whose top offers include Baylor, Iowa, Maryland, Pitt and Minnesota.

“It’s so early, it’s hard to pick which quarterback West Virginia will emphasize, but my personal favorite is Leary,” Cummings said. “He visited WVU not too long ago, so West Virginia is right in the mix. He’s a guy that has about 15 offers right now and he’s going to end up with a lot more.”

Dante Stills (6-4, 265) defensive end
West Virginia wants to bring in five defensive linemen in 2018 — a huge chunk of a class that may top out at 18 signees — and their top prospect resides only a half-hour from campus. Stills is preparing for his senior year at Fairmont, where he’s a four-star recruit and the nation’s No. 8-ranked defensive end.

His father Gary was a standout linebacker for the Mountaineers from 1996-98 and older brother Darius signed with WVU last month.

“I don’t think there’s any question that he’s a must-get for West Virginia,” Cummings said. “Considering their needs on the defensive line, that is an absolute foundation point for this class. Dante Stills has to be in West Virginia’s class.

“He’s grown up around the program, and West Virginia was the first school to offer him, but he’s starting to attract some major, major offers. He’s up to 13 now. Oklahoma and Kentucky offered the last couple days.”

The other programs in pursuit — Penn State, Pitt, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia Tech — could make Stills one of the top in-state prospects in years.

“West Virginia’s got some push from locals and his family,” Cummings said, “but they’re obviously going to have to fend off a lot of other schools.”

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