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Tackles, wideouts top WVU's football recruiting needs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Taking just a cursory look at West Virginia's football roster and its last two recruiting classes, there don't seem to be many glaring holes that need to be addressed in recruiting.

That's just from a numbers standpoint, of course.

For instance, the positions that will be hit hardest by graduation within the next two years seem to be linebacker, offensive line and defensive line. But in the last two recruiting classes, coach Dana Holgorsen has signed more players at each position than will be lost.

Sometimes, though, numbers can be deceiving and far too simplistic. They don't take into account the quality of the players who will be lost or those who have been signed.

So as West Virginia heads into the meat of its recruiting season - summer camps and the fall high school season - the Mountaineers have some concrete goals.

"I think it was part of Coach Holgorsen's bigger plan when he arrived that it would take three full recruiting classes to get where we wanted to be,'' said Ryan Dorchester, WVU's recruiting coordinator. "This will be the third class. I think that perception [that there are no major holes in terms of specific positions] might not be true.''

Take, for instance, the offensive line, specifically at tackle. On his late-spring depth chart, Holgorsen listed just three offensive tackles on the two deep - starters Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt and backup Nick Kindler at both positions. Spain is a junior and the other twoare seniors, and for the most part very few of the younger players have yet to prove they are next in line.

So despite the fact that WVU has signed eight offensive linemen in the last two recruiting classes (they will lose five in the next two years), the tackle position is still considered one of need in this next class.

"It's an area we have to address,'' Dorchester said. "We don't have a whole lot of experience there now and we'll lose what we have pretty soon.

"And it's tricky, really, with those guys. You might recruit a guy as a tackle and find out he's a pretty good guard. We just don't have many tackles.''

Natural roster attrition is also an element in play. Consider wide receiver, where in the last two classes the Mountaineers have signed no less than 11. Only two receivers on the current roster - just-arrived junior college transfer Kevin White and back-again senior Ivan McCartney - are upperclassmen among those who were recruited (Connor Arlia is a junior but was originally a walk-on). But given the loss of Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods, very few have experience and have proven themselves.

So wide receiver will be a target, too. Then again, that position will always be targeted no matter the depth at hand.

"You're always looking for a guy who can make a difference,'' Dorchester said. "If he's an athlete, you're not going to turn him away because you have guys at his position.''

In a way, it's reminiscent of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll's drafting philosophy of taking the best available athlete no matter the position.

"If the kid's good enough, we'll make it work,'' Dorchester said. "I think you have to address every position every year, even if you don't have holes. You may end up having guys stacked at a position, but you deal with that when the time comes.''

To date, West Virginia has only two verbal commitments for the 2014 class - quarterback William Crest of Baltimore and receiver Ricky Rogers of Monroeville, Pa. Because the Mountaineers don't lose many seniors after the coming year, the class is likely to be relatively small, although that can always change with roster defections and the like.

The timing of commitments, of course, seems to constantly fluctuate. One year West Virginia - or almost any team, really - will have nearly half its class filled by early summer, and another year it will be back-loaded with late commitments.

Although most coaches would probably prefer to have a class basically in hand as early as possible, waiting has its up side, too.

"Look at our class last season and when they came into the fold,'' Dorchester said. "Some of the guys we think can come in and compete right away, we didn't even really start recruiting until December. Think of Mario Alford, Brandon Golson, Shelton Gibson, Ron Carswell, Kevin White, Dontrill Hyman, Jeremy Tyler - they were all late in the process.

"I've never seen the perfect blueprint for when you want to fill up your class.''

For now, college coaches are pretty much in a hurry-up-and-wait mode. The Mountaineers have used up all their allotted off-campus recruiting days for the spring, and in early June they will conduct their on-campus camps. After the staff takes time off in late June and early July, there are one-day camps in late July and then practice begins in August.

And with new coaches - Tony Gibson, Brian Mitchell, Lonnie Galloway and Ron Crook - some of the recruiting areas have changed. The Mountaineers are still involved in the surrounding states, plus Florida and Texas, but now Georgia is more of a target. Three players were signed from there in the 2013 class.

"Remember, until this year, the last two first-round picks from here were both from Atlanta [Pacman Jones and Bruce Irvin],'' Dorchester said. "There's talent there. It's a huge city with a huge airport with direct flights to Pittsburgh. If we're in Florida, why not Georgia?''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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