WVU finished off an impressive overhaul on defense in the 2016 class and that trend appears to be continuing early in the 2017 class. Let’s dive in and look at where the Mountaineers can expect to see new faces in 2017.
The best area to get started examining is the defensive line, the coaching staff seems to have made this a priority so far after a disappointing run in the 2016 class. The biggest area of need on the line for WVU is at the nose tackle position. The first names to watch moving forward are DT Derrius Mullins (6’4 326 lbs.) and DT Kurt Hinish (6’3 290 lbs.) with both being natural fits at the nose tackle position. I can potentially see both of these targets being Mountaineers in the 2017 class with each expected to be in Morgantown next month.
Also on the defensive line, the coaching staff needs to get more of a pass rush than it got last season with defensive end being an area of need. WVU lost a big time prospect when DE TyJuan Garbutt committed to Virginia Tech. There is still plenty of talent available to help the Mountaineers in this class. DE Noah Curtis is the most obvious name that I expect to be a Mountaineer in this class. DE Joshua Paschal would be a huge get for WVU but I expect it to be a very tough to get him away from Maryland. Just getting Paschal on campus next month is big for WVU. DE Tommy Christ is another name to watch for in the coming months that just recently received an offer from WVU.
The West Virginia coaching staff focused on the linebacker position in the 2016 class but there are still some big names in the 2017 class that WVU is making a priority. LB Kenny Robinson is the top target at the position and I expect WVU will close the deal and make Robinson a key piece of the 2017 class. At outside linebacker WVU has offered OLB Ayinde Eley, OLB Avery Roberts, and OLB James Houston. Being able to get any of these three away from their home schools will be tough for WVU but not impossible. The OLB I could see WVU landing is in-state target Dorian Etheridge which would be a big win for WVU given the school’s that are after him.
The defensive backfield is where WVU is looking to make its mark in this class and the early offers prove just that. Not only is WVU going after highl regarded targets, they are also focusing on some underrated guys as well. In-state DB Derek Pitts is the most obvious target and I look for him to be part of the 2017 class, but again it won’t be an easy get for the Mountaineers. If WVU can pull DB Lamont Wade away from Ohio State and Pitt then this class will be set at the DB positions. I also expect the Lackawanna pipeline to continue with CB Alex Woods who recently received an offer from WVU. Two big gets for WVU in this class would be CB Ambry Thomas and S Jaylen Kelly-Powell, who are former teammates of current Mountaineer Martell Pettaway. Another top rated target in this class is CB Donovan Johnson who just recently visited WVU for their Junior Day. DB Collin Smith, DB Keontae Jones, DB Ryan Lezzer, and DB Darrell Holloway are the undervalued defensive back prospects that WVU is targeting in this class.
As you can see, the 2017 class is loaded with potential for the WVU coaching staff. The defensive side of the ball looks to be the biggest concern again, and the staff has the potential to land some big time talent.