MORGANTOWN - If the class of newcomers that West Virginia signs today doesn't include some surprises - of either the good or bad kind - it will be, well, a surprise.
The Mountaineers are, of course, hoping for good surprises, a player or two who will sign on the dotted line as a last-minute decision or change of heart. But they must also prepare for those who might defect after giving verbal commitments.
Most of the 17 players who have committed to the Mountaineers appear solid, at least according to the scouting services that track such things. There are another six players who are already enrolled in school, so those are safe.
According to Rivals.com, only one of WVU's commitments is termed as a "soft verbal,'' a player who might well change his mind. That is running back Jermichael Selders of Houston. Selders suffered a knee injury and missed his senior season, then watched as West Virginia received commitments from two other highly touted running backs - Andrew Buie of Jacksonville, Fla., and Dustin Garrison of Pearland, Texas.
Still, Selders has not said that he will renege on his commitment.
Otherwise, the Mountaineers seem to be ready to sign three linebackers, three offensive linemen, two defensive backs, two defensive tackles, two wide receivers, a tight end and a defensive end. That's in addition to the six players already enrolled - two quarterbacks, two defensive backs, a linebacker and a receiver.
As for the potential good surprises, there is a laundry list of players who have not committed but have West Virginia among their final choices. Apparently at the top of that list is cornerback Dominique Terrell of Manassas, Va. Terrell visited Miami last weekend and is said to be deciding from among the Hurricanes, Virginia and WVU. According to Scout.com, Terrell is the highest-rated player (four stars) who is still considering the Mountaineers.
As for the players who are committed and WVU hopes will sign today, the two highest-rated by the scouting services are Buie of Jacksonville and defensive back Terrell Chestnut of Pottstown, Pa. Both are given four stars by Rivals and three by Scout. Chestnut was originally committed to Pitt until the Panthers replaced coach Dave Wannstedt.
One of the six players already enrolled, defensive back Vance Roberts of Washington, D.C., is also listed with four stars by Rivals and three by Scout.
The rest of the class consists mainly of two- and three-star players as ranked by both services. Among the two stars are the two West Virginians expected to sign - tight end Cody Clay of George Washington and offensive lineman Justin Johnson of Parkersburg.
Among those already enrolled are the two quarterbacks - Brian Athey of Eden Prairie, Minn., and Paul Millard of Flower Mound, Texas. In addition to those two and Roberts, the others already in class and working out with the team during winter conditioning are Roberts' brother Vernard, a running back, along with junior college linebacker Josh Francis and Avery Williams. Williams, who is expected to be tried first as a defensive back, signed last February but did not qualify academically.
The other players committed to the class include: linebackers Jared Barber, Isaiah Bruce and Shaquille Petteway, defensive back Nick Kwiatkoski, defensive tackles Ben Bradley and Shaq Rowell, receivers Dante Campbell and Kenneth Myers, defensive end Kyle Rose and offensive linemen Russell Haughton-James and Brandon Jackson.
Including the six early enrollees, the expected newcomers include five from Florida, four from Ohio, three each from Texas and the District of Columbia, two each from West Virginia and Pennsylvania and one each from North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and Minnesota.
The NCAA's national letter of intent period begins today, but players have a month in which to sign binding letters. Most do so on the first day, but there are always some who wait.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.
WVU commitment list
Recruits reportedly committed to play football for West, and are expected to sign binding letters of intent today:
Player Pos. Ht. Wt. High School/College Hometown
Jared Barber LB 6-2 220 Davie Mocksville, N.C.
Ben Bradley DT 6-2 270 Norcross Norcross, Ga.
Isaiah Bruce LB 6-2 205 Providence School Jacksonville, Fla.
Andrew Buie RB 5-10 190 Trinity Christian Jacksonville, Fla.
Dante Campbell WR 6-4 190 East Ridge Clermont, Fla.