WVU Recruiting Roundup: Countdown To Signing Day
With college football’s early signing period (Dec. 19-21) quickly approaching, West Virginia is putting together some of the final pieces for its class of 2019 puzzle.
Dana Holgorsen’s club currently has 15 verbal commitments. That number has bounced up and down lately, as WVU has had a number of defections in recent weeks – some who had their scholarship offers pulled for various reasons and others who decided to look elsewhere – to go along with additions from a couple recent commitments.
NCAA rules allow for a recruiting class to feature no more than 25 scholarship “counters” each year with a maximum total of 85 on the team at any one time.
West Virginia has approximately 76 players on scholarship on its roster this season, 14 of whom are departing seniors. There is typically attrition each year, as well, that will likely take away a few underclassmen.
No matter where it stands in terms of the 85-scholarship limit, though, WVU will only be able to use 23 scholarships for the class of 2019. The Mountaineers added three players last fall – Alabama transfer linebacker VanDarius Cowan, juco receiver Isaiah Esdale and freshman defensive end Tavis Lee – who fell into the “blue shirt” category, meaning West Virginia could count them back to the class of 2018 or forward to the class of 2019. Because WVU had room for just one to count back to last year’s class, it will have to count two ahead to this coming class. Because it’s all basically bookkeeping, it doesn’t really matter which one counts back and which two count ahead. What does matter is that it leaves West Virginia with a maximum of 23 new scholarships to use for the class of 2019.
Because the Mountaineers have dipped so deeply into all three branches of the transfer market – junior college, four-year and graduate – in recently years, they will almost certainly hold a few scholarships in reserve for some late additions this time as well. In the summer of 2017, WVU used some available scholarships for four-year transfers Jack Allison, Jovani Haskins and T.J. Simmons. Last spring it was able to add grad transfer defensive linemen Kenny Bigelow and Jabril Robinson because it had room. Following that pattern, West Virginia will likely keep a couple scholarships in reserve for new transfer options this coming spring or summer. In addition, some players the Mountaineers are targeting seem likely to hold their decisions until the February signing period (Feb. 6-April 1), so that’s another scholarship or two WVU will have to hold back if it wants to have room to add further prospects at that time.
Most of the players who have already verbally committed to West Virginia will likely sign National Letters of Intent on Dec. 19. Of the 16 players who signed LOIs with WVU last year (not including the grad transfers or blue shirts), 14 did so during the early signing period. Junior college transfers Joe Brown and Mike Brown were the only two future Mountaineers who didn’t sign their LOIs in December, as they didn’t come on board until February. Last year was the first time the NCAA had an early signing period for all FBS recruits, and most schools were like WVU in that 80 percent or more of their prospects signed in December. That will likely be the case again this year.
If all 15 players currently on West Virginia’s commitment list sign with the Mountaineers next Wednesday, WVU will ink two defensive linemen (Taijh Alston and Jalen Thornton), one linebacker (Jared Bartlett), three offensive linemen (Donavan Beaver, Parker Moorer and Brandon Yates), two receivers (Terence Doston and Winston Wright), five defensive backs (Nicktroy Fortune, Kerry Martin, Dreshun Miller, Osita Smith, Tykee Smith), one running back (Tony Mathis) and one punter/placekicker (Kolton McGhee).
Considering WVU is going to hold a few of those 23 available scholarships in reserve for future use, it will likely sign somewhere in the range of 15-18 scholarship recipients on Wednesday. That would leave 5-8 more spots, depending on the final totals. According to BlueGoldNews.com’s Jeff Cobb, the Mountaineers still have a number of uncommitted players in their sights. Now not all may sign during the early period, but most probably will. It’s just a matter of if they’ll sign with West Virginia.
Here’s a quick look at the top 10 on Cobb’s list:
Ali Jennings, WR, Highland Springs High School, Richmond, Va. – The 6-2, 185-pound receiver will almost certainly be a Mountaineer. He’s been offered by Michigan State, North Carolina, Illinois and a number of others, but he’s seemingly had his sights set on WVU for quite a while. Having helped Highland Springs to its fourth straight Class 5A state title, in which the Springers have amassed a 57-3 record, he seems to fit in well as an outside receiver for West Virginia.
Blake Bedier, OL, Snow (Utah) Community College – WVU would like to sign a juco college offensive lineman to add some maturity to the class, and the 6-foot-5, 300-pound native of Lehi, Utah, is one of those the Mountaineers are targeting. Arizona, Baylor, Indiana, Rutgers and Missouri are some of the other Power 5 programs with offers in front of Bedier.
Glover Cook, RB/WR, Vanguard High School, Ocala, Fla. – Cook was previously verballed to Missouri, but recently decommitted from the Tigers and is now looking elsewhere. An outstanding running back in high school, others see the future of the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder as a receiver. Kentucky is heavily involved, as are Arkansas, Boston College, Cincinnati, Kansas and WVU.
M.J. Devonshire, DB, Aliquippa High School, Aliquippa, Pa. – A 5-foot-11, 170-pound cornerback, Devonshire is the latest in a long list of outstanding football prospects produced by Aliquippa, which in recent years has featured several who have come to West Virginia, like Dravon Askew-Henry and Kwantel Raines. Devonshire has plenty of high-end offers, including Ohio State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Iowa, WVU, Pitt and Penn State. Many think his recruiting choice will ultimately come down to the Mountaineers and Panthers, though there’s a very good chance Devonshire won’t make that decision until February.
Johnny Dixon, DB, Chamberlain High School, Tampa, Fla. – One of the top cornerback prospects in the country, Dixon has a who’s who list of offers, consisting of schools like Miami, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, South Carolina and plenty of others. WVU is on the list, but it could be tough for the Mountaineers to push their way to the head of the class.
Paiton Fears, OL, Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College – Fears is another juco offensive line prospect who would fit WVU’s desire to add an older player in that position group. The 6-foot-6, 327-pounder is a native of Minneola, Fla. He has reportedly narrowed his list to Arizona, Missouri and West Virginia.
Tavian Mayo, DB, Lee County High School, Leesburg, Ga. – After helping Lee County capture its second straight Class 6A Georgia state championship with a 15-0 record, Mayo actually has one more game remaining in his high school career. The Trojans will host St. Frances Academy of Baltimore in the GEICO State Champions Bowl on Dec. 22 in a 7:30 p.m. contest that will be televised by ESPNU. Mayo, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback, is one of the leaders of the Georgia powerhouse, and he has scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Iowa State and Nebraska, as well as WVU. West Virginia thinks so much of Mayo that Holgorsen and Mountaineer assistant Doug Belk were both on the sidelines at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta watching Mayo and Lee County defeat Northside-Warner Robins, 14-0, in the state championship game this past Tuesday.
Brian Merritt, DL, Colquitt County High School, Moultrie, Ga. – At 6-foot and 295 pounds, Merritt is a short, stocky high school defensive end who will likely move down to defensive tackle or noseguard at the college level. His lack of height is probably the reason more Power 5 programs haven’t extended offers, though both Pitt and West Virginia like his combination of strength and quickness and have scholarships on his table.
Jamel Starks, RB/DB, Southwest DeKalb High School, Decatur, Ga. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Starks was a running back and defensive back in high school, though most colleges seem to think he’ll be a cornerback at the next level. He visited Nebraska back in September, and the Cornhuskers are still on his radar. N.C. State also is in hot pursuit, as are the Mountaineers. Starks is said to be close friends with WVU commit Winston Wright, so that may help West Virginia’s cause.
Isheem Young, DB, Imhotep Charter, Philadelphia, Pa. – A hard-hitting, 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back and defensive back, Young was one of the nation’s top safety prospects in the class of 2018 with offers from the likes of Penn State, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, West Virginia and a couple dozen other college powerhouses. He committed to the Nittany Lions in the summer of 2018, but then a fateful mistake changed his path. Last December he was arrested and charged with being one of three people involved in an armed robbery at a South Philadelphia convenience store. Though he was 17 years old at the time of the crime, Young was initially charged as an adult. Eventually the court allowed Young plead to juvenile charges, and he avoided what could have been a lengthy prison sentence. Penn State dropped its offer. Having finished high school last June, Young is now looking to get his life back together and a college that he can call home. WVU may be the school that gives him a second chance. Current West Virginia commit Osita Smith was a teammate of Young’s at Imhotep in the past.