WVU staff busy in home stretch of recruiting
Back in October, the NCAA passed a handful of new rules to help streamline recruiting and give players and coaches a little more time to relax during the holidays. College football's governing body extended the "dead period" - which typically ran from the week before Christmas until right after New Year's Day - all the way until the middle of January.
Of course, Mountaineer fans saw just how lively a "dead period" can be, with West Virginia picking up two 2015 commitments, hiring a new assistant coach and causing an uproar in the south Florida recruiting scene.
Still, with coaches not allowed to have in-person contact - whether that be at the recruit's house or hosting recruits on campus - until Jan. 16, the importance of these final three weekends cannot be understated. Thankfully, the Mountaineers got off to a hot start this past weekend, hosting three major official visitors and impressing them all.
The first, Friendship Academy (D.C.) safety DaeJuan Funderburk, committed to the Mountaineers during the trip. The three-star prospect had long been leaning toward the Mountaineers but simply wanted to wait until he could tell the coaches in person. Before he did that, he detailed for EerSports why he was committing to WVU.
"I feel like it's the best fit for me," the 6-foot-1, 180-pound prospect said last week. "The atmosphere, coaches and fans were welcoming, as well as the people in Morgantown."
Joining Funderburk on this past weekend's visitor list was Hillside (N.C.) running back Donte Thomas-Williams, arguably the top target remaining on West Virginia's board, regardless of position. For the Top247-rated prospect, things could not have gone much better.
"I'd give it a 10," said Thomas-Williams, when asked to rank the visit. "Just the whole campus was nice. I learned a lot."
The four-star recruit then admitted that West Virginia was his definitive leader after the trip, surging ahead of Florida State, UCLA, Notre Dame and others. This coming weekend, he intends to visit N.C. State, and he will make a decision between the Wolfpack and Mountaineers shortly after.
Finally, South Dade (Fla.) wide receiver C.J. Worton made the long - albeit familiar - trip up from south Florida to Morgantown. He, too, could not give enough praise to the coaches and players for his time in town.
"What didn't stand out?" Worton replied when asked what stood out about the trip. "The trip was awesome. The whole thing was crazy. I met with all the coaches, went to dinner. It was real awesome. The whole thing was just awesome."
While still verbally committed to Florida State, Worton said the Mountaineers are making his decision a lot tougher. He will also visit Ole Miss this weekend, and Florida next weekend before National Signing Day (Feb. 5), when he will make a final decision between those four schools, Oregon and UCF.
The coaches' work is not done, though. The next two weekends have the potential to be even bigger, as West Virginia hosts numerous recruits and several commits. This coming weekend, junior college All-American defensive end Kenderius Whitehead will be the headliner. He currently has the Mountaineers as his top school, and could make a decision shortly after the trip. The former four-star prospect will be joined by two-way lineman Yodny Cajuste, offensive tackle Josh Krok and, potentially, defensive back D'Cota Dixon.
Cajuste is a late-blooming lineman out of Miramar (Fla.), where new assistant Damon Cogdell was head coach. He has only played organized football for one year, and his potential to be something special has drawn offers from Florida, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
Krok is currently committed to West Virginia, but just last week took an official visit to Kentucky. The Wildcats are trying to sell early playing time and flip the long-time Mountaineer pledge. This weekend, the WVU coaches will have their shot to convince him to stay true to the Old Gold and Blue.
Dixon is a three-star prospect that could play safety or corner. He is down to Wisconsin, Michigan State, Louisville and West Virginia. At the moment, he is still up in the air about whether he will be in Morgantown this weekend or next.
For the weekend of Jan. 31, West Virginia will play host to numerous committed players, including offensive tackle Walter Rauterkus, defensive tackle Jaleel Fields, defensive end Tyree Owens, offensive guard Amanii Brown, quarterback William Crest and defensive back Dravon Henry.
Those six are sure to be recruiting a trio of uncommitted (at least not to WVU) prospects that plan to be in town. Seabreeze (Fla.) wide receiver Charles Nelson has WVU in his top group along with Notre Dame, Southern Cal and Oregon, while Utah cornerback commit Travonne Hobbs and Arizona State running back commit Demario Richard, both say they will be officially visiting West Virginia that weekend.
As if things weren't going to be busy enough, up to two dozen 2015 recruits are expected to be in town that Saturday as part of West Virginia's Junior Day festivities - only the first of multiple Junior Days the coaches have planned throughout the spring.
It's a good thing the NCAA added on that extra two weeks of rest earlier this month.
For more coverage of WVU football recruiting, visit eersports.com.