Mountaineers fill roster, needs

MORGANTOWN -Depending on how you look at it, Christmas either came early or late for West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff as the 2014 recruiting class was announced Wednesday afternoon at the Milan Puskar Center.

“It’s been a successful day,” Holgorsen said. “The excitement began at 7:02 a.m. when we received the letter-of-intent from Dravon (Henry) and it continued throughout the day.”

As of the 3 p.m. press conference, WVU had received signed letters from 21 recruits. The actual number will be 22 as former University of Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell was given a scholarship when classes began in January.

“We’ve added 22 guys and we are right at 85 (scholarship players) for the first time since I’ve been here,” continued Holgorsen. “Right now, we have 70 kids in off-season conditioning.

“Added to the 25 or so walk-ons, we will have almost as many players here for spring drills that we would have for the first day of camp. That means that we will be able to play a lot of football and our kids will be able to get better.”

Welcome words for a Mountaineer program slated to open the 2014 season against Alabama.

Holgorsen’s latest recruiting class includes 12 offensive players (if you include Shell) and 10 defensive players. A further breakdown finds five offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, three wide receivers and two running backs on offense and three linebackers, cornerbacks and defensive linemen and one safety.

“We took a little bit of everything,” said the coach. “We had a need at quarterback so we went out and got Skylar (Howard), who is on campus, and William (Crest) -a player that we have been on the trail of for a long time.

“We got a nice surprise today with (running back) Donte Thomas-Williams. He’s a big, strong kid who runs fast and has a ton of upside.”

Howard is expected to compete immediately for the starting signal-caller’s job with incumbents Clint Trickett and Paul Millard while Crest will report in June.

“Obviously, we felt like we needed some help there (at quarterback). Clint (Trickett) is still recovering from surgery and won’t be available until we come back from spring break. Skylar understands that he has a lot of work to do to beat out those two, but even though they played well at times last year, they didn’t play well enough to have that job locked up.”

Parkersburg South graduate Ron Crook, the Mountaineers offensive line coach, was the recipient of the largest number of recruits (5) as the staff looks to replace starters Pat Eger, Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt and improve the depth of a unit that had as many downs as ups in 2013.

“Anytime you have a chance to get a big body, you go for it,” assistant coach Tony Gibson explained. “We (the coaching staff) looked at where our biggest needs were and we addressed them with our recruiting.”

Six members of the class already are in Morgantown and will participate in spring drills in March and April. The group includes Howard, linebacker Edward Muldrow, cornerback Keishawn Richardson and offensive tackle Sylvester Townes -all junior college transfers – and high school graduates Devonte James ( LB) and Ricky Rogers (WR).

Two other junior college transfers make up the class of 2014. Jaylon Myers (Hutchinson Community College in Kansas) will challenge for a starting job at cornerback while Los Angeles Pierce (Calif.) College’s Justin Scott will look to fill one of the vacant offensive line slots.

One player from the Mountain State is on the list, Morgantown’s Amanii Brown.

“A lot of the credit goes to our coaching staff for identifying our needs and then going out there to find the best players they could find to meet those needs,” said Holgorsen.

The remainder of the class includes offensive linemen Dontae Angus (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Walter Rauterkus (Avon, Ohio), defensive linemen Jaleel Fields (Aliquippa, Pa.), Yodny Cajuste (Hollywood, Fla.) and Tyree Owens (Oviedo, Fla.), safety Daejuan Funderburk (Washington, D.C.), wide receivers Jacob McCrary (Miami, Fla.) and Lamar Parker (Miami, Fla.), linebacker Xavier Preston (Jensen Beach, Fla.), and Shell.

“Our numbers are getting better,” continued Holgorsen. “We have seven here and should have the other 15 here in June. You don’t worry about anything left on the table. We are finally at a point where we don’t need to fill every slot. We are at that point where we are filled up.”

West Virginia opens spring drills on March 2 with the annual Gold/Blue Scrimmage slated for mid-April.