With National Signing Day in the rear-view mirror, let’s take a look at the 2017 recruiting class for the WVU Football program, but also where they stack up in the Big 12.
According to 247sports.com, West Virginia’s recruiting class ranks 57th in the country. Seven teams in the Big 12 have higher-ranked classes than the Mountaineers: Oklahoma (8), Texas (26), TCU (31), Oklahoma State (38), Baylor (39), Texas Tech (51) and Iowa State (53).
Many of you are worried about this ranking – I’m here to ease your mind a bit.
Just six months ago, WVU was projected by many to finish around 8th in the the Big 12 (out of 10 teams). Those “experts” couldn’t have been more wrong, as Dana Holgorsen led the Mountaineers to a 10-3 record and a 3rd place finish in the Big 12. College football is like a revolving door with talent coming and going, though. Here are some additions to the Mountaineers.
- Tevin Bush | RB
- Alec Sinkfield | RB
- Dominique Maiden | WR
- Reggie Roberson | WR
- David Sills | WR
- Maverick Wolfley | FB
- Kelby Wickline | T
- Isaiah Hardy | T
- Tyler Thurmond | T
Of the nine ‘Eers added to the offense, four are from JuCo – Maiden, Sills, Wickline and Hardy. West Virginia’s had success pulling from there, including Justin Crawford and Rasul Douglas as of late. The 6’5″ Maiden is blessed with size at receiver and has a number of success stories to emulate at his disposal. He’ll need some time to add muscle, but the skills are there. The shorter Bush and Sinkfield have their own tools to work with at running back. Bush is a real burner, with speed for days and the ability to cut on a dime. In addition to some giddy-up of his own, Sinkfield welcomes lowering his shoulder and delivering the contact. Both backs are more than just runners – they also contribute in the pass game. Wickline and Hardy will bring much-needed experience to an offensive line that lost key players to graduation, including center Tyler Orlosky. Yodny Cajuste is expected to return from injury, adding another body to the mix.
Sure, the Mountaineers didn’t bring in any 4- or 5-star recruits (according to 247sports), but the rankings are not the end-all, be-all. Notre Dame’s pulled in a top-15 class every year for the past four seasons, but only once finished with 10 wins. The Georgia Bulldogs are another university that rakes in top high school talent. Mark Richt, now the head coach at Miami, had four straight top-10 classes before getting fired. In his final six seasons, Georgia won at least 10 games in four of them; but all those stars couldn’t keep him from getting fired.
Coach Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson have a good thing going. They understand where to find acquirable talent that can contribute relatively early; Justin Crawford and Kyzir White are two quick examples of that. Crawford, the leading returning rusher for the Mountaineers, was the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year before coming to WVU. White was a 4-star recruit, but followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers Kevin and Ka’Raun. They’re not all highly-touted, though – most are often overlooked – but they can play the game. Gibson added four JuCo guys to the defense for ’17, among eight high schoolers.
- Derrek Pitts | DB
- Kenny Robinson | DB
- Hakeem Bailey | DB
- Eugene Brown | DB
- Exree Loe | DB
- Collin Smith | DB
- Ricky Johns | DB
- Quondarius Qualls | LB
- Ezekiel Rose | DE
- Darius Stills | DT
- Jalen Harvey | DT
- Lamonte McDougle | DT
With these 12 defenders, the 2017 recruiting class stands at 21. Holgorsen noted on National Signing Day there could be more additions, and just the type of players they’ll be on the look out for in the coming months.
“There are four-year transfers that you typically don’t know until after spring practice. Sometimes you know now like Will Crest…Whether it is grad transfers or four-year transfers or coach (Joe) Wickline hitting all of these JuCo’s in May finding these late-out guys…Keep your eyes and ears open and you better have some room if you want to get some guys like Will Grier or Maurice Fleming.”
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Fleming was a graduate-transfer after four years at Iowa. He was an instant boost to the lineup, playing in 12 of 13 games and racking up 43 tackles and nine pass deflections. Fleming joined the Mountaineers in May, just three months before the 2016 season. Crawford was another late addition, after running back Wendell Smallwood left school early for the NFL. West Virginia isn’t just taking fliers on anybody, though. These kids finish their degree here and happen to produce on Saturday’s in front of thousands.
Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson should be pleased with this year’s haul, too. Rose, Qualls and Harvey are all expected to compete on the defensive line, while the secondary added some much needed youth. Pitts, Brown, Bailey and Robinson could see time at not only defensive back and safety, but also linebacker depending on their off-season progress. Lamonte McDougle might be my favorite recruit in the 2017 class. At 6’0″, 303 lbs., McDougle has a stellar game from the defensive tackle position. His combination of power and quickness remind me of former WVU great Chris Neild. He eats up blocks and tosses away defenders like rag-dolls. I don’t expect that to happen right away, but with time he could become a prime-time player. He’s also flashed a good use of his hands, a vital attribute to a young lineman.
Holgorsen has a nice combination of youth and experience heading into the 2017 season. Not all of these young guys will play, but sitting and learning behind veterans has proven to be effective. Don’t get discouraged with the 57th-best recruiting class rank, either. It’s just a number. Who actually thought West Virginia would be coming off a 10-win season? Not the people who predicted they’d finish 8th in the Big 12. And definitely not the people who think seven Big 12 teams recruited better than the ‘Eers. West Virginia will just have to prove their doubters wrong, once again!