WVU signs top needs in class
MORGANTOWN-Second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen introduced the Class of 2013 at the Milan Puskar Athletic Facility on Wednesday, but the Mountaineers’ boss was quick to add that those may not be the only names added to the West Virginia University roster when it opens training camp in August.
“It (recruiting) depends on how things shake out,” said Holgorsen. “We are still actively pursuing a couple of guys. We are still active. We still have a couple more spots available. We may identify a couple of guys that we want to bring on board.
“We may want to bring a couple of transfers on board. We will evaluate that as a staff and make the best decision possible.”
For now, WVU’s newest head coach and his staff will evaluate the 25 athletes that signed their letters on National Letter of Intent Signing Day Wednesday. The class is a 50-50 mix of both offensive and defensive player with Fullerton College punter Nick O’Toole representing the only special teams player taken.
The Class of 2013 includes five wide receivers and as many linebackers, four offensive linemen and the same number of safeties, two running backs and two defensive ends as well as one quarterback and one fullback.
“The thing about this class that stands out to me is that we went to 15 different states to get these guys,” added the coach. “If you look at what happened last year, it was the surrounding states and down south.
“One of the things we wanted to focus on this year was getting more kids out of the surrounding states. We got four kids out of Pennsylvania, three from New Jersey, three from Ohio, three from Georgia, two from Florida and one each from the states remaining.”
Seven of the recruits have already enrolled in classes and will be on the roster when the Mountaineers open spring drills in March.
They are quarterback Chavas Rawlins (Monessen High School), wide receivers Kevin White (Lackawanna College) and Daikiel Shorts (Eastern Christian Academy), linebacker Hodari Christian (McKeesport High School), safety Malik Greaves (Sandalwood High School) and running backs Wendell Smallwood (Eastern Christian Academy) and Dreamius Smith (Butler Community College).
“We felt pretty good about the seven that were enrolled here early,” laughed Holgorsen. “We worked those seven guys out yesterday. You never know with the other 18 guys. We talked to all of them yesterday and talked to them again today. We are glad it worked out the way it did.”
Those seven will begin helping Holgorsen and his staff fill some of the holes created by a senior class (22 players) that played their final game when the Mountaineers lost to former Big East rival Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in late December.
“Specifically, we put a strong emphasis on guys who could rush the passer,” said the coach. “Everybody said that our woes defensively were pass defense-related, so we should get as many cornerbacks as we could.
“That is a very uneducated statement. You better find defensive linemen that can rush the passer. We lost Terence Garvin and Josh Francis to graduation, and we were not very deep at those positions. That was a position of need.”
And a need that was addressed with the signing of players like Brandon Golson (Georgia Military College), d’Vante Henry (Arizona Western College), Dontrill Hyman (Hinds Community College), Marvin Gross (Dunbar High School), Jeremy Tyler (Martin Luther King High School) and Isaac McDonald (Champagnat Catholic High School).
The former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech also looked to bolster the Mountaineers’ list of playmakers with the loss of the team’s top three receivers-Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods.
“We have three junior college players coming in. Kevin White is already on campus, and he is a grown man. Daikiel Shorts is a grown man who is adjusting to college quickly. The new guys are all 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 guys who have quick twitch ability.
“Mario Alford is a guy who can just flat-out run. Ronald Carswell can run away from people. The last guy who we ended up adding was Shelton Gibson. When you watch him on tape, he is extremely, extremely talented. These are guys who we are going to get the ball to in space.
“Whether the guys who are here now can hold down a spot will be fun to watch in camp. We will be anxious to add these guys.”
Finding immediate help to bolster a senior class that is expected to be small, number-wise, in size was also addressed with the signing of nine junior college players.
“It is something that we have talked about for quite a while,” explained Holgorsen. “Identifying these guys is not easy. You have to spend a lot of time making phone calls and going to see them to see if they are your type of guys.
“One thing that I have seen change in college football is the amount of guys from junior college who are being recruited. In my years at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, it wouldn’t be strange to have a class without any junior college players. We were able to land nine of them.”
Of course, not all are on campus and not all have qualified.
“There’s always going to be guys who you have to keep an eye on,” said the coach. “(Recruiting coordinator) Ryan Dorchester can probably give you a better percentage. A lot of them are already qualified. It is not 100 percent, so there are a handful of guys who we will continue to monitor.
“We will get updates from their counselors. We will get updated SAT scores and specific updates on that.”
Locally, Williamstown High School senior offensive/defensive lineman Nick Meadows has agreed to join the Mountaineer program as a preferred walk-on. The 6-foot, 216-pounder is expected to challenge for the long-snapping duties when he reports in August.