High School Football

‘Huge’ recruiting opportunities in North Carolina: Spavital

Running back Kennedy McKoy (4) is one of four West Virginia players or commitments from North Carolina.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen was honest enough this week to second-guess himself over decisions made four years ago.

If he could turn back time to July 2014, when the Belk College Kickoff pairing between West Virginia and Tennessee was cemented, Holgorsen would have marketed this game more emphatically to North Carolina recruits.

“That’s one of my regrets,” he said. “If we could have sold this game to Charlotte kids three years ago, it probably would have made a little bit bigger of an impact.”

West Virginia has dipped into North Carolina for a few prospects during the interim. Running back Kennedy McKoy and kicker Jonn Young signed in 2016, receiver Bryce Wheaton came aboard in 2018, and four-star linebacker Lee Kpogba is committed for 2019.

But Holgorsen understands the state could become more fertile for the Mountaineers, particularly with Charlotte-area native Will Grier becoming the face of the program this fall. More than 30,000 WVU alumni reside within a short drive of Bank of America Stadium, where Saturday’s season opener will be played.

“We haven’t really focused on North Carolina, and it was probably a little bit of an oversight on my aspect of it,” Holgorsen said.

In the 2019 class, more than 50 prospects within North Carolina hold Power Five offers. West Virginia has taken notice, with offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and defensive line coach Bruce Tall recruiting the state.

“We’ve moved into there. So now we have a presence,” Holgoren said. “Typically, it takes a few years.”

Grier’s Heisman campaign, and his father’s connections within the high school ranks, could open doors more rapidly.

Spavital talked with Chad Grier and said “he led me in the right directions and we built a lot of good relationships.” The reception from coaches and recruits seemed positive, enhanced by a stream of WVU fans Spavital encountered.

“There’s a ton of good players in that area, and there’s a lot of alums and people from the state of West Virginia that work in the school systems,” Spavital said. “I took Dana to about 18 to 20 schools in January, and you’ll find a Mountaineer in every one that wants to take a picture with Dana.

“This is a huge game for West Virginia down there.”

Given the proximity to Morgantown, could North Carolina soon join Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Georgia among the program’s primary targets?

“I’ve been down there a bunch,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve developed a lot of friendships down there, and I’ve met a ton of West Virginia people. It’s big — this is a big weekend for West Virginia University, and West Virginia in general, in Charlotte. The interest will continue to grow, and I just think we’re getting started there.”

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