Column: Huddled Masses Find Success On WVU’s Teeming Shores
Even in the midst of West Virginia’s winning moments, the occasional call will come from a fan – “Why can’t Dana Holgorsen recruit a high school quarterback and develop him into WVU’s leader?”
My response to that is, “Who cares where they come from, as long as they come to West Virginia?”
Admittedly in his eight seasons at WVU, Holgorsen has yet to recruit a high school QB who develops into a full-time starter and ultimately a superstar.
He inherited Geno Smith, got Clint Trickett as a grad transfer, found Skyler Howard in the junior college ranks and then was able to navigate the transfer trail to land Will Grier.
None of them came directly to Dana from high school, and you know what, who cares?
The fact is, all were/are very good quarterbacks who have kept the standard of play at that vital position very high for the Mountaineers.
Did it matter that Ade Dillon (Navy), Jeff Hostetler (Penn State), Jake Kelchner (Notre Dame) and Greg Jones (Miami) began their college careers elsewhere?
Occasionally West Virginia will find a quarterback from the high school ranks and develop him into an outstanding player. Most of the time those were undervalued recruits who others couldn’t envision becoming great QBs. Major Harris, Chad Johnston, Marc Bulger, Rasheed Marshall and Pat White are prime examples of that.
But rarely has WVU been the first stop for a blue chip quarterback prospect coming out of high school. Geno was probably the closest to following that formula, but he also had to go through two coaching staffs at West Virginia to get NFL ready.
The fact is the Mountaineers have not often been the pick of a five-star recruit coming out of high school, no matter what the position, who then went on to become a star. Tavon Austin is the only one who really fits that bill as of late, though maybe Dante Stills will follow suit.
West Virginia’s football program has often resembled Ellis Island with a mixture of people from various lands looking for a second chance to find a home.
We know the present-day stories of Grier, David Sills, Kenny Bigelow, Jabril Robinson, Jovani Haskins, T.J. Simmons, Ezekiel Rose, Josh Norwood, Toyous Avery, Keith Washington, etc. All came to the Mountaineers looking for second chances, and all have contributed mightily to this season’s success.
Next year WVU fans will get to add Alabama transfer VanDarius Cowan to that list, and certainly others will arrive on West Virginia’s teeming shores this coming offseason.
This notion of welcoming immigrants from foreign lands isn’t new to Mountaineer football, though admittedly Holgorsen has welcomed more of the huddled masses than previous WVU coaches.
But from A.B. Brown to Reggie Rembert to Ryan Mundy to Owen Schmitt to Bruce Irvin, West Virginia has often found stars among those looking for a something better at a different stop.
WVU’s football program has become this great melting pot, and as long those added to the mix are good people and good players, I for one could care less if they came straight to West Virginia from a high school or had previously been at a junior college or another four-year university.
The Mountaineers are about to play in their 22nd bowl in the past 26 seasons, so obviously the talent pool – however it got here – has been good enough to keep WVU performing at a pretty high level.
As long as the ultimate starter keeps the Mountaineers on their winning ways, what does it matter what path they followed to arrive at West Virginia?