The 2010 season has just ended, well at least for some teams, and the race to become the national champion in 2011 is now in full gear as coaches around the country look for those athletes that will transform their program from "also ran status" to "legitimate contender."
With National Letter of Intent Signing Day more than a month away, West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart and his staff have secured the services of 3-star outside linebacker Joshua Francis and appear to be on the verge of attracting another junior college standout.
Francis, who attended Lackawanna Junior College, turned down offers from Kansas State, Oregon and Rutgers to become the first member of the Class of 2011 to sign a letter of intent.
Scout.com's Scott Kennedy describes the 6-foot, 2-inch (213 pound) linebacker as "an outside linebacker with good top speed, it's not uncommon to see Francis chase down a wide receiver. A fluid athlete, Francis has a very good change of direction whether it's turning his hips in coverage or turning the corner on a blitz around a tackle".
The addition of Francis couldn't have come at a better time for a Mountaineer defense which half of its two-deep at the linebacking position. Playing their final games for the old gold and blue in the Champs Sports Bowl were seniors Anthony Leonard, Pat Lazear and J.T. Thomas.
Francis is expected to be in Morgantown when classes resume in January and be cleared to participate in spring drills.
Reports on Monday also had Jeff Casteel and the defense receiving the services of another high-profile junior college player-Iowa Western's Shaq Rowell.
At 6-foot, 3-inches and 300 pounds the Cleveland, Ohio-native would appear to be the answer to WVU's need for a replacement for all-Big East nose tackle Chris Neild.
While an official Letter of Intent has not been sighted, expectations are strong that Rowell will be enrolled for the spring semester and will join Francis and the rest of the Mountaineer prevent unit for spring drills.
Making all of this news even more interesting is the coaching uncertainty that presently surrounds the program.
Head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen is expected to be on campus when students report back from their holiday break and one has to wonder what impact the "offensive-minded" coach will have on any future recruits the staff will bring into Morgantown.
Or will the former-Oklahoma State offensive coordinator sit back and allow Stewart and his returning staff to make this their final recruiting class. In the dog-eat-dog world of NCAA D-I football, it is hard to believe that an incoming head coach will allow his predecessor to bring in a class that will not meet the needs of the coach that will eventually be expected to win with them.
Mountaineer fans understand what one bad class can do to a program and after back-to-back years in which WVU's incoming class was rated among the Top 25 in the country, they aren't going to accept anything, but the best.
And, why should they?
Stewart's predecessor proved that WVU can be a player in the national championship race.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org