17 Sign To Play At WVU

MORGANTOWN – Dana Holgorsen’s first taste of National Signing Day on the East Coast was something of an eye-opener.

Holgorsen, West Virginia’s offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting, spent the last 12 years in the southwest, where the prospects commit early and rarely waver, he said.

”Ninety percent of the time, those guys are going to remain with the schools they committed to during the summer,” Holgorsen said. ”The East Coast, it’s about press conferences and taking all of your visits and pulling hats out at the last second.”

In all, 17 prospects pulled down hats with Flying WVs on Wednesday, with head coach Bill Stewart using a baseball analogy to describe the haul.

”You never bat a thousand,” he said. ”You never hit a home run every time. But I feel really good. We got in the batter’s box, we took the bat off our shoulder, we swung, we made contact, and I’m really excited about this class. It’s a very good class.”

In addition to the 17 new players (nine on offense, eight on defense), six players enrolled early and are already in school. They count against last year’s recruiting class.

The early enrollees are: quarterbacks Paul Millard (6-foot-2, 200) and Brian Athey (6-3, 203), defensive backs Vance Roberts (5-10, 170) and Avery Williams (5-10, 173), linebacker Josh Francis (6-2, 215), and receiver Vernard Roberts (5-11, 175).

Williams was a part of last year’s class but did not qualify.

Looking at Wednesday’s signings, the breakdown is: three linebackers in Jared Barber (6-1, 215), Isaiah Bruce (6-2, 215), and Steubenville’s Shaq Petteway (6-0, 200); two running backs in Andrew Buie (5-9, 191) and Dustin Garrison (5-8, 165); three defensive linemen in Ben Bradley (6-3, 275), Kyle Rose (6-4, 240), and Shaq Rowell (6-4, 308); two tall receivers in Dante Campbell (6-2, 205) and K.J. Myers (6-2, 185); four offensive linemen in Russell Haughton-James (6-6, 280), Brandon Jackson (6-4, 320), Justin Johnson (6-4, 288), and Marquis Lucas (6-4, 310); one tight end in George Washington’s Cody Clay (6-4, 250); one cornerback in Terrell Chestnut (6-0, 177) and one safety in Nick Kwiatkoski (6-2, 215).

All of the defensive players were recruited by Jeff Casteel and his staff from the beginning. Of the offensive guys, the four offensive linemen, the two running backs, and QB Millard all came aboard after the changes were made to the offensive staff.

One of the most telling reversals in thinking as a result of the coaching changes was the signing of Buie and Garrison, both small, quick running backs. Stewart had suggested most of last season that he’d like to go with bigger backs, but it’s clear Holgorsen’s imprint is in place with these guys because his desire is to get the ball to quick, athletic guys in space.

Two players – Rowell and Francis – are Junior College players.

As far as the recruiting services are concerned Buie, an all-purpose back who rushed for 1,782 yards last season, Chestnutt, and Vance Roberts were given four stars by at least one scouting service.

Both in-state players – Clay and Johnson (brother of WVU lineman Josh Jenkins) – were rated as two-stars.

”These guys are our stars,” Stewart said.

In the end, the WVU staff felt it did a pretty good job, all things considered, though it will take a few years to put a real grade on the class.

”There’s nothing stable about recruiting,” Holgorsen said. ”To get the guys we got was an every day battle. That’s just the way it is. There’s 100 and some other schools doing the same things that we are. There are guys we were calling (Tuesday) night that we didn’t get. That’s just a part of recruiting.

”There’s a lot of good places they can go to and when they sign, it’s over. That’s why the National Letter of Intent is what it is – to end all the madness. We’re glad to have the ones that we got.”