football

West Virginia reloads with out of state prospects

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BLUEFIELD — One year ago, Bill Stewart and the
West Virginia coaching staff had to hit the recruiting trail with plenty of
uncertainty surrounding the program.
Not this year, and it shows. The Mountaineers have been focused on recruiting
since the season ended with a win over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care
Bowl.
Their focus has been good.
Among the 23 players that have verbally committed — some of whom have already
enrolled — are seven 4-star prospects, as rated by rivals.com.
The 'Eers early haul includes six offensive linemen, five defensive backs, along
with a trio of running backs and three receivers, all of whom are 4-star
prospects.
West Virginia's win over the Tar Heels completed a 9-4 campaign, the first
season for the 'Eers under Stewart.
Several Mountaineers have played their final games, including quarterback Pat
White, considered to be the best player in school history.
Others missing in '09 will be receiver Dorrell Jalloh, offensive linemen Ryan
Stanchek and Greg Isdaner, linebacker Mortty Ivy, defensive back Ellis Lankster,
kicker Pat McAfee and long snapper Adam Hughes.
Still, the 'Eers return plenty of weapons, especially on defense. Yet, the
Mountaineers have been busy rounding up reinforcements.
So far so good. According to rivals.com, West Virginia is 19th nationally in
recruiting, and first in the Big East, ahead of Rutgers and South Florida. The
national leaders include LSU, Ohio State, Texas, Southern California and
Alabama.
The Mountaineers have dipped into nine states, pulling seven players from
Florida, four from Ohio and three apiece from Virginia and Pennsylvania. The
lone West Virginia prospect is Cole Bowers (6-5, 288, an offensive
lineman from Cabell-Midland in Ona. Bowers is the second ranked prospect in the
Mountain State behind quarterback C.J. Crawford, who has committed to
Marshall.
Among the 4-star commitments are Tavon Austin (5-8, 156), a running
back from Baltimore, and a trio of receivers, led by Logan Heastie
(6-2, 192), Stedman Bailey (5-10, 186) and Deon Long (6-0,
175).
Austin is the 13th ranked running back in America, according to rivals.com. As a
junior, Austin ran for 2,553 yards and 32 touchdowns.
A pair of Florida imports, defensive back Michael Carter (5-11, 154)
and quarterback Eugene Smith (6-3, 182), are also highly-rated
prospects. Defensive end Tevita Finau (6-5, 275) has already signed a
letter of intent as part of the '08 class.
Smith is a third ranked dual threat quarterback in the nation. As a junior, he
threw for 2,222 yards, 25 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also ran
for seven scores.
Carter is the 12th ranked cornerback in the '09 class.
West Virginia rarely hesitates to play a freshmen if they can help.
The Mountaineers signed 23 players for the '08 class and several received
significant minutes, including defensive back Robert Sands, running back Mark
Rodgers and tight end Tyler Urban.
Austin is one player who could see the field soon. WVU struggled last season to
find someone to spell Noel Devine. Other incoming running backs are Shawne
Alston (5-11, 220) and Daquan Hargrett (6-0, 180). All three run
the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds or less.
Joining Carter as defensive back prospects are fellow Floridian Jonathan
Scott (6-3, 190), along with Arthur Render (6-0, 185), Terence
Garvin (6-2, 200) and Darwin Cook (6-1, 180).
Cook and Heastie are the fastest of the recruits, breaking the 40 in four
seconds.
West Virginia went heavily after offensive linemen. In addition to Bowers,
they've added three prospects from Pennsylvania in Pat Eger (6-6, 260),
Curtis Feight (6-6, 270), Nick Kindler (6-6, 275), along with
Ryan Spiker (6-4, 295) and Jordan Weingart (6-2, 287).
A pair of linebackers from Ohio have committed, including Branko Busick
(6-1, 220) and Chris Snook (6-3, 222). Defensive tackle Dominik
Davenport (6-0, 268) joined Alston in choosing West Virginia. Both played
at Group AAA power Phoebus in Hampton, Va.
Brodrick Jenkins (5-10, 177), recruited as an athlete from Florida,
rounds out the class of 23. More players could be added in the next two weeks.
Verbal commitments aren't binding. Letters of intent can be accepted on Feb. 4.
The first Wednesday of each February is known as national signing day for high
school prospects across the nation.
West Virginia opens its 2009 season on Sept. 5 by hosting the Liberty Flames, a
Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team that plays in the Big South
Conference.
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