WVU Delivering On In-State Recruiting Vows

West Virginia defensive lineman Dante Stills eyes a ball during a defensive drill

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There has been a regeneration of talent in the state of West Virginia’s high school football, and the Mountaineers, as promised by coach Neal Brown when he took over, have been taking advantage of it.

It wasn’t all that long ago that West Virginia’s roster was dotted with homegrown talent, much of it walk-ons, with only the very best two or three making it into the starting lineup in a good year.

Think about how it is now.

A year ago, defensive tackle Darius Stills out of Fairmont Senior was the Big 12’s Defensive Lineman of the Year and a consensus All-American. Overlooked in the NFL draft — apparently, it was news that the state of West Virginia was capable of producing NFL talent — Stills signed with the Las Vegas Raiders and is on the roster at present as a promising free agent.

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However, last year Darius Stills was joined by another Polar Bear, the highly talented Zach Frazier, who made the starting lineup not only as a true freshman but out of position, forced into playing guard when he is a natural center. Stills’ younger brother Dante also started alongside Stills in the defensive line.

Now WVU has added two former stars at Spring Valley to join Frazier on the offensive line, Virginia Tech transfer Doug Nester and true freshman Wyatt Milum, who has thrust himself into competition with Parker Moorer for the starting right tackle job.

On the defensive side of the ball, safety Kerry Martin out of Capital High in Charleston is in the rotation while Sean Martin from Bluefield will play a lot on a talented defensive line. Casey Legg of Charleston and Evan Staley from Hampshire High are competing for the field goal kicking job.

West Virginia offensive lineman Wyatt Milum (64) works on his punch with Dylan Ray (left)

What has happened that WVU high school football has gotten to the point that there are 19 state residents on the roster including potential stars, especially on the offensive and defensive lines?

Travis Trickett isn’t sure.

Trickett, the son of former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett and a WVU graduate himself, played at Morgantown High in his teenage years.

“I was talking to somebody in the profession recently and we were like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ It wasn’t that way when I was in high school here,” Trickett said. “You know what? I don’t know that it hasn’t always been that way. I think it’s more known now.

“If you look back, even when I was in high school, there were guys who left and played different places and some of the lower guys stayed in the state. It is interesting, though.”

What is just as interesting is that Neal Brown, understanding the psyche of a state like West Virginia, having been brought up across the border in Kentucky, an area with a similar state of mind, felt it was important to keep whatever talent West Virginia had at home.

“When we first got here, Coach Brown said to us, ‘If there’s a kid here who we feel can help us win the Big 12 championship, we have to keep them at home. That is a high priority. Identify the ones we want to go get and then attack. It’s critical,’” Trickett said.

And so they ramped up the West Virginia recruiting, especially compared to where it was under Dana Holgorsen, who did not show the same kind of interest in keeping Mountaineer prospects at home.

West Virginia, of course, is always looking for respect, and with the state university being the biggest sports program in a state that has no major league franchises in any sport, he felt he could build the kind of pride necessary by catering to the best athletes West Virginia had to offer.

Certainly, they were there waiting to get a chance. This is, after all, the state that produced Sam Huff and Jerry West and Rod Hundley and Randy Moss and Mary Lou Retton and John Kruk, so why not help nurture that kind of talent?

With the proliferation of football and basketball camps and with West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 ⁠— recruiting in-state prospects was something that was overlooked when talking about the advantages that came with the move ⁠— West Virginia football became more mainstream.

Dante Stills believes that things like the move to the Big 12 and the internet exposure have made a big difference.

“I feel like every year there is that handful of guys that is really good at their sport — could be any sport, but especially football,” Stills said. “A lot of guys are getting exposure now so they can play at a high level in college. This is the Big 12. I’m happy the West Virginia kids are getting exposure now.”

Stills, who first played with Zach Frazier one year in Pee Wee football, talked about how he and Frazier first came in contact while in Fairmont.

“I always remember, I was a junior when he came to high school, and he was strong as me and Darius and all the older guys. We were all like, ‘This dude is unhuman-like.’”

And nothing has changed.

“He’s a big guy,” Stills said. “He’s confident. I think he’s ready to play. He’s going to be one of the best offensive linemen in the conference for sure. Every day we compete and we make each other better.”

The biggest part of it is the pride West Virginians have in their state, though.

“They want to be here, the majority of them,” Trickett said. “They want to put on for their state, for their family. There is pride here. I moved a lot ⁠— and I mean a lot ⁠— as a coach’s kid, but when you come here, it’s just different. It’s like it’s all we got. It’s that us-against-the-world mentality.”

Home Page forums WVU Delivering On In-State Recruiting Vows

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    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There has been a regeneration of talent in the state of West Virginia’s high school football, and the Mountaineers, as promised by
    [See the full post at: WVU Delivering On In-State Recruiting Vows]


    Once again the WVU great Chuck Howley was forgotten


    Fair point! An all-time Mountaineer great.


    Ira Rogers and Mark Workman





    Somehow I don’t think including a player from 100 years ago is relevant to in-state recruiting of today.

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Home Page forums WVU Delivering On In-State Recruiting Vows

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