Will Mountaineers cash in on 'poaching season?'
It's that time of year again. No, it's not time for people to break their week-old New Year's resolution, or time for the kids to head back to school, or even time to fall into a deep depression because another college football game will not be played for another seven and a half months.
It's poaching season.
That's right. This time of year, college coaches are getting hired, getting fired or "resigning" (ahem, Mack Brown). With all of the upheaval and only four weeks until National Signing Day, this leaves recruits around the country with second thoughts, and advantageous coaches prepared to offer new opportunities.
Over the years, West Virginia has been both a victim and a winner from this tumultuous season. Just last year, the Mountaineers were the beneficiaries, particularly thanks to the hires of Tony Gibson and Brian Mitchell. When Gibson arrived from Arizona, two of the Wildcats' prized commitments - linebacker Brandon Golson and wide receiver Mario Alford - immediately called to schedule an official visit. The same happened with defensive end (and East Carolina commit) Dontrill Hyman. Eventually, all three flipped their commitments to the Mountaineers, signed in February and made substantial impacts last fall.
In 2014, change elsewhere - rather than in Morgantown - could be beneficial for the Mountaineers.
In all, the Mountaineers hosted three Miami commits for official visits: athlete Brandon Powell, cornerback Nigel Bethel and outside linebacker Mike Smith. A source tells me Powell, an early enrollee, was fully prepared to enroll in Morgantown this week had Golden announced he was leaving on Sunday. The three-star prospect admits he would have enrolled somewhere other than Miami, but did not wish to name the school. Had Golden elected to return to his alma mater, there's a decent chance WVU would have ended up with at least two (Powell and Bethel) of those three, if not the entire trio.
Thompkins re-affirmed his commitment this week, but both Godwin and Vincent say they still need time to think about their situation and see who the new coach is going to be before deciding. Godwin trained at times with current West Virginia wideout Daikiel Shorts, while Vincent - son of the former NFL corner of the same name - camped in Morgantown last summer.
Two players who remain committed but say they will look into other are schools are Fort Pierce Central (Fla.) defensive end Rashawn Shaw and Smallwood (Fla.) wide receiver Desean Blair. Shaw tells me that shortly after the news of Strong's departure, Mountaineer assistant coach JaJuan Seider reached out to him.
"He told me their doors are still open to me and that I can come up and play for them," he said. "He said that I'm the pass rusher they are looking for and that it will be a second family being up there."
Shaw had already been talking to Seider, his area recruiter, for weeks, but says the absence of a head coach at Louisville cemented his intentions to visit Morgantown. He is planning that trip, as well as stops at Duke and Virginia before Feb. 5, National Signing Day.
Blair has been committed to Louisville since April, but plans to check out Purdue, West Virginia and Nebraska. He originally had a visit set for Morgantown on Jan. 17, but a last-minute offer from the Cornhuskers has those plans up in the air. The one aspect working in WVU's favor is that he is a former teammate of current Mountaineer safety Malik Greaves.
Although he has elected not to speak with the media since the news of Strong's departure, Northmont (Ohio) defensive end Terry Ramsey could be the name to watch most closely. The three-star prospect was down to Michigan State, Louisville and West Virginia, planning to visit the three schools in that order in successive weeks. Heading into the trips, WVU was his leader, but Strong convinced him to commit to the Cardinals before he ever made it to Morgantown.
That's why you saw the flips of Alford, Golson and Hyman late in the process last year. In the case of Hyman, he had been recruited by Mitchell for four years, dating back to high school. There was little doubt he would be following him to Morgantown.
Again, there are no changes expected on West Virginia's staff, but there will be plenty of movement elsewhere. Those moves will come to a head during the annual coaches' convention Jan. 13-15 ... which just so happens to coincide with the restart of the contact period. Then the real fun begins.
For more coverage of West Virginia recruiting, visit www.eersports.com.