MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–One glance at the ESPN (56th) or Rivals.com (51st) football team recruiting rankings and the casual West Virginia Mountaineer football fan may feel huge disappointment as those numbers are not particularly high.
However, the 2017 WVU recruiting class is actually not as bad as it may look on paper. With just one four star recruit (South Charleston’s Derek Pitts) and no quarterback, fans are panicking.
But let’s not panic just yet. For starters, a recruiting class should be judged in no less than three years after it initially assembles. Secondly, although the low ranking does implicate that maybe this was not the best year for the Mountaineers, they have actually made a living off of under recruited, under the radar type players such as Daryl Worley, K.J. Dillon, Nick Kwiatkoski and Mario Alford, just to name a few over the last several years.
Here is a position breakdown of the 2017 class:
QB– None. Remember in 2013 when the Mountaineers had a ton of QB trouble and four different quarterbacks started at least one game? Dana Holgorsen vowed to never let that happen again. So why no quarterback here? The coach made it clear yesterday in his press conference that recruiting for this year is not done and indicated that the signal caller position is one that could benefit. West Virginia tried to flip Florida State commit James Blackman, but were unsuccessful so a graduate transfer or junior college player could still pop up here. If not, The Mountaineers will likely take two QB’s in 2018.
RB– Alec Sinkfield and Maverick Wolfley. Sinkfield is an elite athlete from South Florida that went a little under the radar. He is very good when the ball is in his hands and WVU has proven to be kind to true freshman running backs. (see Kennedy McKoy and Martell Petteway). Sinkfield may or may not see the field next season but will be a very good player in his time in Morgantown. If there’s a Wolfley alive he is most likely going to end up in the old gold and blue. This Wolfley will start his career at fullback and try to become the heir apparent to Elijah Wellman.
WR– David Sills, Dominique Maiden and Reggie Roberson. Mountaineer nation was very excited to see David Sills return after leaving the program to be a quarterback at a junior college in California. That experiment finally convinced the incoming junior to focus solely on receiver, a spot he can play in the NFL if he continues his development. Maiden is a raw, but tall and athletic kid at 6-foot-5 inches that will be a red zone nightmare for opponents. Roberson is a guy WVU got in on late, but his relationship with WR coach Tyron Carrier was the deciding factor. Roberson is a guy that should contribute early in his career and the potential stardom he has is a legit feeling right now.
OL– Isaiah Hardy, Kelby Wickline, and Tyler Thurmond. West Virginia went into this cycle focusing the most on offensive linemen and safeties and the former hauled in a nice trio. Hardy and Wickline are juco prospects that will be expected to contribute immediately, especially Wickline, the son of offensive line coach, Joe Wickline. He can play any position along the line and really developed this past year and garnered a lot of good power 5 conference offers. Hardy is a beast to say the least at 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds. He can flatten defenders with ease. Thurmond is a tough player that excels in run blocking. He was a big time recruit until this past season when his high school team changed offenses and he showed some weaknesses in pass blocking. Still, coaches are excited to work with him.
DL– Jalen Harvey, Darius Stills, Ezekiel Rose and Lamonte McDougle. It is believed that the staff is really happy with their prospects along the defensive line. One of the most important positions in football, the Mountaineers got four players that each do something well. Harvey is a big juco tackle that will be counted on to take up space in the middle of the line. Stills is a local legacy (son of Gary Stills) that will most likely redshirt and Rose is already enrolled and supposedly a good pass rusher off the edge. Finally, McDougle is the biggest “get” of the bunch as he had several power 5 offers, is built like a tree and has big time athleticism.
LB– Quondarius Qualls. Qualls is another early enrollee juco player. One thing is for sure, he will have the best name on the team. His stats from 2015 were ridiculously good. He had 67 tackles, 17 for loss and 10 sacks. He was named a super sophomore by the Sporting News that year as well. He will most likely see the field next season in some capacity, especially when pass rushing is needed.
DB– Kenny Robinson, Exree Loe, Ricky Johns, E.J. Brown, Collin Smith, Derek Pitts, Hakeem Bailey(CB). This is a group that was strongly targeted during this class year. The local hero, Pitts, is the headlining 4-star recruit and held offers from almost everyone. Loe was a corner in high school, but will start out at safety because of his frame. Johns and Smith are very underrated and are considered to be the types of players that will make a huge impact. These are two prime examples of how West Virginia makes its living on the field. They are both tall and rangy and cover a lot of ground. Brown honestly looks like a Karl Joseph clone but he probably shouldn’t have that type of pressure on him. Still, he is a hard hitter just like the current Oakland Raider and had some really solid offers from the likes of Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Ole Miss and N.C. State. Bailey is a juco player enrolled now that originally committed to Marshall out of high school. He has good size at 6-foot-1 inch and will be expected to make an immediate impact at probably the most unsettling position on the team.
ATH– Tevin Bush. He may eventually be known as “the little man”, but the 5-foot-5 inch Bush is an electric athlete. He has blazing speed and can juke a defender out of his shoes with ease. Would have been a high star recruit had he been taller, but WVU has always succeeded with players of his stature and Bush will hopefully continue that trend.
So, there are a lot of things to like about this class. It is not a class for the star gazers but it meets a lot of immediate needs and the Mountaineers have a current roster of win now players. So do not be discouraged with the rankings just yet. Besides, 2018 is already shaping up to be a great year as well.