WVU’s Signing Day Notebook: No Major Surprises
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – If you were looking for recruiting day surprises this year, West Virginia University was not the place to be on Wednesday.
There were no shockers. Everything went exactly as expected for the Mountaineers, who entered the first day of the early signing period with 15 verbal commitments and one heavy lean and exited with 16 National Letters of Intent.
WVU had a number of other recruits which it was still recruiting right up to signing day, but two went elsewhere and two are still unsigned.
Junior college offensive lineman Blake Bedier signed with Baylor, while another juco offensive lineman, Paiton Fears, landed at Arizona.
A pair of high school defensive backs – Isheem Young of Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter and Tavian Mayo of Lee County, Ga. – both are still unsigned. While each took official visits to WVU recently, neither signed with West Virginia or anywhere else on Wednesday. The Mountaineers apparently remain in play for both.
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Besides the 16 new signees, the Mountaineers’ official announcement for the class of 2019 also included linebacker VanDarius Cowan and wide receiver Isaiah Esdale. Both players enrolled at WVU this past August and have spent the entire fall with the football team, but because of technicalities, the scholarships for both are counted as part of the ’19 class. But in reality, each has been practicing with West Virginia’s football program for nearly five months. Esdale even played in a game this season, so the pair isn’t exactly new to WVU.
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West Virginia expects three of the recent signees to enroll for the start of the January semester – junior college defensive end Taijh Alston, junior college cornerback Dreshun Miller and Capital (W.Va.) High defensive back Kerry Martin. The rest will enter WVU in the summer.
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The Mountaineers still have seven scholarships remaining to use for this class. Those additions will probably be some variety of transfers and late high school signees.
On the offensive side, West Virginia has just two scholarship quarterbacks returning next year and didn’t sign a QB … yet.
“Obviously, quarterback is still a need at this point,” stated WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. “We haven’t signed one. I think you all can figure out what we’ve been successful with, with quarterbacks (who have come to WVU as transfers), and what we will continue to try to look for in quarterbacks. We only have two on scholarship right now (Jack Allison and Trey Lowe). We will try to bring somebody in in the summer. Moving forward, we’re still looking at who we can get.”
The Mountaineer options at quarterback could include a transfer or late high school signee, or maybe one of each.
As for WVU’s defense, coordinator Tony Gibson has some specific plans for a few of those available scholarships.
“We still need one more defensive lineman that we’ll be on the hunt for,” explained Gibson. “Right now, I would prefer an end, though one with the type of body who can also play inside if need be.
“We signed one linebacker,” added Gibson, referring to Jared Bartlett. “If you count (transfer linebacker) VanDarius (Cowan), then that’d be two. So, we’re done at linebacker. Then, we signed five defensive backs so far, but we’re still looking for one of each – a corner and a safety.”
Mayo and Young would seem to be two prime candidates to fill those remaining cornerback and safety slots.
As for the additional defensive linemen, Gibson said it could be an older transfer or a younger prospect.
“We’ll see what pops up here through the first signing day (in February),” he noted. “We’ll go on the hunt and see what we can get. Whatever is the best available is how we’re going to approach it at this point.”
WVU receiver recruit Ali Jennings revealed in a signing day video that Holgorsen would be the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator of the future. Jake Spavital, who has been West Virginia’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons, was hired last month as the head coach at Texas State, so West Virginia does need someone to fill that role. The head coach could very well do it again, just as he did six years in the program.
But Holgorsen wasn’t committed to keeping the O.C. job beyond the Camping World Bowl, though.
“I have (decided to call the plays) for this (bowl) game,” said Holgorsen. “I’ll reevaluate everything once the year is over. I’m getting back in the swing of things; my fingers are all cramped up (in practice) because I’m signaling plays again. I’ve been cooped up, so I’m having a good time with it.”
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As for the bowl game itself, Holgorsen mentioned a number of true freshmen who could potentially play in the Dec. 28 contest. All have played in less than four games thus far, so any or all could see action in Orlando and still qualify for a redshirt in accordance to the new NCAA rule this year.
Lowe hasn’t any game action yet this year, but according to Holgorsen, he’ll see some snaps against Syracuse in some sort of rotation with Allison. Receivers Sam James, who has played in three games, and Bryce James, who has played in one game, also are expected to see some action. Offensive linemen Mike Brown and Briason Mays, tight end T.J. Banks, safety Kwantel Raines and defensive lineman James Gmiter are other redshirt-eligible players who could see playing time in WVU’s bowl game.
“We’re going to get those guys out there and see what happens in a live setting,” said Holgorsen. “That’s awesome to me, and we’re not killing a year. Then when they come back in here in January after that kind of experience and an opportunity to be able to go play, they are going to be different people because of it.”
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Not every Mountaineer will be playing in the Camping World Bowl, though. It was previously revealed that quarterback Will Grier and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste would skip WVU’s bowl game in order to prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. Holgorsen announced on Wednesday that senior receiver Gary Jennings would also not play against Syracuse. Jennings has been hobbled by a high ankle sprain since mid-season, and while he played through the pain in the last six games, it’s been decided to shut him down and let him heal up in advance of the NFL Combine and other such workouts.