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Recruit bump from Big 12?

Alex Hammond, West Virginia University's director of football operations, hit a Sonic Drive-In window on Friday before heading to Cincinnati for the Mountaineers' game at Cincinnati.

Perhaps it was appropriate, because he's hoping the team's recruiting efforts experience a boom with the school's announced move to the Big 12.

True, WVU is having a somewhat disappointing season. The Mountaineers are .500 in Big East games after being named the league's preseason favorite. But Hammond, who steers the recruiting effort for coach Dana Holgorsen, is encouraged.

"There remains a lot of excitement around the team, head coach and [Big 12] conference," Hammond said.

With the latest commitment from Nate Smith, a 5-foot-11, 176-pound three-star defensive back from Archbishop Wood Catholic in Pennsylvania, the number of those giving an early nod stands at 18. Smith, by the way, will play in the Dec. 30 Chesapeake Bowl, which pits all-stars from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware against those from Maryland, Washington and Virginia. Archbishop Wood, on a nine-game winning streak at 9-1, has won the past three Philadelphia Catholic League titles and will go for another today against Monsignor Bonner. Smith turned down offers from Michigan State, South Carolina, Temple and Toledo to give Holgorsen his word.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how WVU fares in the area of recruiting considering the announced move to the Big 12, the team's current season and, perhaps, fallout from the Penn State scandal. On Thursday evening, the Nittany Lions' top recruit, Joey O'Connor of Windsor, Colo., backed off his commitment. O'Connor is a four-star offensive tackle.

Hammond wouldn't comment on PSU's situation, but he did discuss WVU's standing in the area of recruiting.

"It's too soon to tell the actual number of players we'll be taking," Hammond said. "But whenever you move to a national conference, players will be excited to have an opportunity to play in that conference.

"NCAA rules allow a school to take 25 recruits in a class, but we can also sign back. If we take 23 in a class and get two to enroll in the spring, we can apply those to 2011."

Along with the 18 currently committed for 2012, WVU also took in defensive end Derrick Bryant, who transferred from UCLA after getting homesick. The Brookhaven, Ohio, product initially chose the Bruins after turning down Michigan, Michigan State, Kentucky, Oregon, Kansas, North Carolina and the Mountaineers. He's sitting out this season and will have three years to play for WVU.

"We have potentially six more openings," Hammond said.

WVU has no commitments from Mountain State players, but is actively recruiting George Washington High's Ryan Switzer. Hammond said the Mountaineer staff has been busy.

"Recruiting is constant," Hammond said. "It never stops. Even with those committed, you don't stop recruiting them. But as long as you have a very comprehensive and successful system, the results will be there."

Perhaps WVU's top prospect to commit so far is four-star wide receiver Deontay McManus, 6-2, 215 pounds from Baltimore. Ten others have been given three of five stars from Rivals.com.

"December will be an important month for official visits," Hammond said. "We'll have some in for the Pitt game, then all the way through January."

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.

 


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