WVU Coaches Tried to Identify the Stars of Tomorrow

Whether you looked at West Virginia’s football recruits Wednesday and saw a pile of gold or a pile of question marks doesn’t necessarily matter much at this point.

The truth is, for most of those players, they’re not as good as they’re going to be. That’s why you had to love what Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said on signing day. It was one of those rare instances where he sounded like he fits in.

”When you get them, you have to get them better,” he said. ”… We have identified who wants to be here. Guys that signed (Wednesday) are guys that want to be here. We are going to coach the heck out of them.”

It’s a class not unlike many recent others at WVU – a host of three stars combined to make a class that is generally ranked in the area of 24-32 nationally (Rivals, 24; ESPN, 32; Scout, 26).

That number, among those three sites, puts the Mountaineers fifth among Big 12 teams in terms of classes, but it doesn’t take into account something we’ve long known about football players that arrive on campus in Morgantown.

They’re expected to work. One of the main reasons West Virginia rarely recruits among the top 25 but often finishes there is because its players outwork the competition.

With nine junior college players in the fold, plus some high schoolers who appear to have the ability to play right away, there will be little, if any time for slacking, among the new guys.

The coaches identified their needs – specifically to bolster an underwhelming pass rush and receivers to replace some serious record holders – and went out and found them.

The general thought was the back end of West Virginia’s defense was the main culprit in surrendering nearly 500 points last season, but Holgorsen laughs at that notion.

”Everybody said that our woes defensively were pass defense related, so we should get as many cornerbacks as we could,” he said. ”That is a very uneducated statement. You better find defensive linemen that can rush the passer.”

To that end, he looked at three-star outside linebackers Brandon Golson (6-foot-3, 220) and D’Vante Henry (6-5, 205), three/two-star defensive end Dontrill Hyman (6-4, 265), three-star defensive lineman Marvin Gross (6-4, 225 pounds), three-star defensive back Jeremy Tyler (6-0, 195), three-star outside linebacker/safety Isaac McDonald (6-5, 205), and three/four-star inside linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton (6-2, 220) and thinks they’re onto something.

He said Benton is ”as dynamic as we have seen. If you put him with our whole team right now, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he is a new kid.”

At receiver, three JUCO players already on campus in three/four star Mario Alford (5-9, 175), three-star Daikiel Shorts (6-1, 200) and Kevin White (6-4, 210) join Ronald Carswell (6-0, 180) and Shelton Gibson (6-1, 175) as guys looking to make a quick impact.

”These are guys that we are going to get the ball to in space,” Holgorsen said. ”Whether the guys that are here now can hold down a spot will be fun to watch in camp. We will be anxious to add these guys.”

They added four offensive linemen in four/three star Marcell Lazard (6-6, 293), three-star Tyler Tezeno (6-3, 280), unrated/two-star Stone Underwood (6-4, 285) and three/two star Grant Lingafelter (6-5, 265).

”If you aren’t adding four or five guys per year on the offensive line, it is going to end up catching up to you,” Holgorsen said. ”I think that gives us 15 bodies on the offensive line. You can never have enough of those guys. I like where we are from a depth standpoint. We just have to establish some starters there.”

Three running backs joined the fray in Dreamius Smith (5-10, 215), three-star Wendell Smallwood (5-11, 194) and in-state product and three-star Elijah Wellman (6-2, 235).

Others in the class are three-star linebacker Hodari Christian (6-1, 195), defensive back Malik Greaves (6-3, 200), defensive back Isaac McDonald (6-5, 205), unranked/two-star punter Nick O’Toole (6-5, 220), three-star quarterback Chavas Rawlins (6-3, 190), four/three star safety Malik Greaves (6-3, 200), four-star inside linebacker Darrien Howard (6-2, 250) and three-star defensive back Daryl Worley (6-2, 190).

Using ESPN.com as a breakdown, because it was generally nicer than the others, that’s six four-stars, 17 three stars, one two star and one unranked player.

The number of stars today doesn’t matter. It’s the stars of tomorrow the WVU coaches were trying to identify.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net