I would like to preface this article by stating this is not a knock on the recruiting analysts that put in countless hours providing up to the minute information for recruiting networks like 247sports, Rivals, and Scout. As far as that is concerned the WVU affiliates have some of the best in the business in Keenan Cummings of Rivals, Jon Martin of Scout, and Chris Anderson of 247sports.
However, the system used to rate potential college athletes is flawed. It isn’t flawed in the sense that these young men do not deserve the recognition but flawed in the sense that there are so many variables not taken into consideration when ranking a schools overall recruiting class.
Former WVU recruiting coordinator Donnie Young used to say that the success of a recruiting class was not based on how many four or five star kids a school successfully recruited but based on how that school satisfied needs for the coming season. This could not be more true for the WVU 2016 recruiting class.
The manner in which the WVU staff fulfilled every need and the impressive fashion in which it was accomplished is missed on a national scale. Why you ask? Because WVU is ranked anywhere from 34th to 39th in the nation depending on which recruiting service you follow. However, in terms of fulfilling immediate needs, Coach Holgorsen and staff had one of the best recruiting classes in recent history.
The announcements of Daryl Worley and Wendell Smallwood foregoing their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft did not leave the staff much time to recover. Worley was considered a shutdown corner and Smallwood had just won the Big 12 rushing title. Pair that with the fact the Mountaineers had lost numerous more key players such as Cody Clay, KJ Dillon, Terrell Chestnut, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Karl Joseph just to name a few and there was justifiable concern.
Could Holgorsen and staff could have gone on the recruiting trail looking for highly rated offensive lineman and wide receivers to full out the 2016 class? Sure, but what purpose would it have served. Yes the class could have been ranked highly on a national level but many of the immediate needs would not have been fulfilled.
Instead the staff did what was necessary, they signed numerous JUCO players with the ability to contribute immediately as well as true freshman who would be able to learn.
Immediately players such as Brendan Ferns, Craig Smith, Justin Crawford, Steven Smothers, and Mike Daniels come to mind. Yes these athletes were highly ranked but more importantly they fulfilled a need. Crawford will undoubtedly start in place of Smallwood and beside Rushel Shell. The additions of Martell Pettaway and Kennedy McKoy sure up the future in the Mountaineers backfield.
Marquis Lucas was the only departed starting offensive lineman for the Mountaineers. He was replaced with Craig Smith who is rated only a two star by some recruiting services. However, the JUCO All-American 6’6 330 lb lineman has the size, speed, and strength to contribute immediately. The Mountaineers also were able to plan for the future with the commitments of true freshman Chase Behrndt, Jacob Buccigrossi, and and Josh Sills.
The Mountaineers only lost two receivers in KJ Myers and Jordan Thompson. Those two departures were replaced with Steven Smothers who for whatever unknown reason went from a four to a three star weeks before national signing day, and Marcus Simms. The Mountaineers beat out numerous Big 10 and ACC schools for Simms.
The addition of Kyzir White, who again is only rated a three star by some recruiting services although being almost unanimously rated the #1 JUCO safety in the country, also fills an immediate need in the defensive secondary along with JUCO safety Toyous Avery. Elijah Battle and Mike Daniels also help ease the pain of losing Worley and Chestnut. All four are JUCO transfers and will presumably see significant playing time next season. And as the Mountaineer staff did with every other position of need, they planned for the future with the additions of JoVanni Stewart and Sean Mahone. And do not forget Dylan Tonkery who very well may be a more physical replica of his older brother Wes.
Although the Mountaineers lost all three starting linebackers from last season they still boast 12 on the current roster which does not include Brendan Ferns, the #16 rated outside linebacker in the country. It also doesn’t include Adam Hensley who although rated a three star saw late contact by schools such as Ohio State and Michigan just to name a few.
You see where I am going here, every conceivable area of need was fulfilled, many of which were done late in the process. While the Mountaineers recruiting class is considered only fifth best in the Big 12 the fact remains that from an offensive standpoint WVU will not miss a beat, that is a win.
It isn’t always about getting the highest rated player and it isn’t always about being rated in the top 25 in recruiting rankings. It is however about fulfilling needs. Coach Holgorsen and staff did that, probably better than almost any other team in the country.