Recruiting: Around the Big 12 - West Virginia

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By Ian Boyd , Inside Texas Special Contributor
Posted Feb 24, 2014
Copyright © 2017 InsideTexas.com


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Byndon and Phillips at West Virginia. (Will Gallagher/IT)

How the Mountaineers filled out their 2014 class will tell us a lot about whether Dana Holgorsen understands the remaining hurdles and challenges for his squad in becoming a Big 12 contender.

Like Charlie Weiss at Kansas, Dana Holgorsen is at a crossroads at West Virginia.

He's just lost his defensive coordinator, although he's replaced him with a great recruiter and supplemented with Penn St great Tom Bradley, and has struggled to replace the playmakers he inherited from Bill Stewart.

When I randomly decided to move from north to south in my preview of the Big 12's 2014 recruiting classes I failed to actually consider the league's geography and a brief and late consultation of Google maps suggests that Morgantown is north of both Manhattan and Lawrence but I haven't checked the latitude to be sure. It's too late now. Here we go:

West Virginia employs a 3-4 D that is designed to protect the secondary and allow true Cover-2 schemes with deep safety alignments in the hopes of keeping the ball in front of the defenders. The last two years they've had some solid DL but really struggled to field playmakers in the Front 7 or defensive backs, who can take advantage of favorable positioning on the back end.

The offense is Holgo-Raid and it's brilliant and efficient in design. The Zone/screen run game is effective at creating multiple horizontal stress points for the defense without requiring mobility from the QB position but the offense also has a lot of vertical features. In other words, they attack every part of the field.

They have good schemes on both sides, the question is whether Holgorsen's oversight of the overall process can maximize the players.

QB
Needs of the WV system: Because the run/pass packaged plays are so effective and integral to the Mountaineer offense, the key at QB is to be able to make quick reads and get the ball out. There's also a need for accuracy on the deep cross, fade routes, and seam routes that provide the vertical stress. Not necessarily a ton of arm strength, but accuracy and timing.
Takes:
William Crest: 6-2, 195. Baltimore, MD (Dunbar)
Skyler Howard (JUCO): 6-0, 205. Riverside, CA (Riverside)

JUCO Howard has already enrolled at WV for the spring and will presumably provide Holgorsen with another 3-way battle for the QB1 spot on the depth chart. Howard has exceptional touch on the deep throws and is mobile but his JUCO tape doesn't reveal a lot of the snap-decision option plays that he'll be asked to make at WV.
Crest is an exceptional athlete who's vision of the field is fantastic and portends his potential to make off-schedule plays as a QB and handle their option pass/run hybrid attack. He has great arm strength as well but is a longer-term project who has time to sit behind the others. If he doesn't make it as a QB he has the athleticism to impact their offense at another position.

Grade: B

RB
Needs of the WV system: The Holgo-raid thrives with versatile backs who can serve as receivers, zone runners, or make the reads in "Power." Charles Sims was secretly the best RB in the Big 12 in 2013 and exemplified all that Holgs can do with the position.
Takes:
Donte Thomas-Williams: 6-0, 221. Durham, NC (Hilside)

DTW is a really solid prospect who can catch out of the backfield and has a nice jump step for running Inside Zone or Power. His acceleration is good and combined with his size give him a lot of power hitting the hole.

Grade: B

WR
Needs of the WV system: The slot receivers need to be fairly versatile and capable of attacking the seams vertically as well as getting open and doing damage in the standard quick game concepts all spread passing teams employ. The Mountaineers also are looking for standard outside receivers who can dominate a corner on the sideline attempting to take them man2man.
Takes:
Ricky Rogers: 6-1, 200. Monroeville, PA (Gateway)
Jacob McCrary: 6-0, 182. Miami, FL (Coral Reef)
Lamar Parker: 5-8, 170. Miami, FL (Booker T. Washington)

Holgorsen definitely knows where to look in Florida to find weapons for his system.
Rogers, the northerner, has the size and fluidity to cause immediate problems in the Big 12. He makes excellent cuts and uses his size well to bring the ball down.
McCrary is another extremely dangerous vertical threat who can switch gears in his routes like Marcus Johnson. He's likely to be an exceptionally tough cover without deep safety help.
Parker has experience running vertical routes, which will play well in the slot, and has good change of direction. His top speed isn't as threatening but that matters less in the slot. Like with all short inside receivers, his ability to find the soft spots in a zone that QB can fit the ball into will be critical.

Grade: B+

OL
Needs of the WV system: Very similar to what Wickline is looking for at Texas as they employ many of the same techniques. The ideal is tall and powerful people with quick feet. The ones that can't make it outside become guards. They also mix in Power which requires some lateral quickness and smarts from the guards.
Takes:
Justin Scott (JUCO): 6-5, 290. Woodland Hills, CA (Pierce C.C.)
Walter Rauterkuss: 6-6, 285. Avon, OH (Avon)
Amanii Brown: 6-5, 260. Morgantown, WV (Morgantown)
Sylvester Townes (JUCO): 6-6, 285. Clarksdale, MS (Coahoma C.C.)
Dontae Angus: 6-6, 300. Philadelphia, PA (M L King)
Yodny Cajuste: 6-6, 270. Miramar, FL (Miramar)

Overall the Mountaineers took a lot of numbers and projects, which is key for a school of his level in fielding a depth chart of upperclassmen contributors.
Scott has a chance to have an immediate impact at OT as his quick feet, flexibility, and pass protection seemed to make JUCO pass-rushers a bore for him. He could use a little more power in his base for when Striker turns into him.
Rauterkuss has the desired quickness but plays fairly high and will need some time in S&C and with coaching to ensure that his pad level doesn't make him look like an Avon lady.
Brown is lightning off the ball and almost looks quick enough to play on the DL for them, particularly if he doesn't end up adding a ton of weight on his frame. He'll likely end up at guard where his speed and intelligence will play well on Power or at center.
Townes is another player that may have an immediate impact, potentially at guard or tackle. He can pull and move some in space and absorbs a bull rush well for being only 285.
Angus is a very raw prospect but anytime you can take a tall powerful kid named Angus for your OL that's a no-brainer, right?
Cajuste is tall, but has narrow shoulders and may struggle to add weight and strength to make the leap from high school to Big 12. His athleticism is a doubtful fit at OT.

Grade: C+

DL
Needs of the WV system: The Mountaineers have put a lot on their DL with some 2-gap responsibilities and essentially need some powerful bodies up front to protect their linebackers and set them up to make the plays.
Takes:
Tyree Owens: 6-3, 236. Oviedo, FL (Oviedo)
Jaleel Fields: 6-0, 286. Aliquippa, PA (Aliquippa)

The Mountaineers need numbers here like at OL, particularly in landing a nose-tackle, and didn't get them.
I foresee Owens growing to 250-260 and playing as a the 5-tech SDE in the WV system although he may play the Buck linebacker spot. He has some good power and lateral speed and could be a Big 12 starter.
Fields comes from the same HS as one of the Mountaineers better defensive takes, which makes his selection somewhat dubious. However, he is very quick and has potential as an inside pass-rusher in the DE/DT hybrid position.

Grade: D+

LB
Needs of the WV system: The Mountaineers need playmakers here. Outside backers who can cause disruption on the edge as blitzers, run-force defenders, and zone droppers and inside backers who can plug the middle and bring an interior pass rush.
Takes:
Edward Muldrow (JUCO): 6-4, 215. Wessow, MS (Copiah-Lincoln C.C.)
Xavier Preston: 6-3, 220. 6-3, 220. Jensen Beach, FL (Jensen Beach)
Davonte James: 6-3, 220. Springfield, OH (Springfield)

They did well in snatching up two edge players but the overall number of takes and the 3rd player leaves something to be desired.
Muldrow is an explosive pass-rusher with excellent length that will make an excellent Buck linebacker, possibly as soon as 2014.
Preston is a very powerful player who could also make for a great edge player or potentially move inside if his instincts and reads speed up with coaching.
James is a pure Mike linebacker who's quick and powerful coming downhill but may be ripped to shreds attempting to play coverage against spread sets.

Grade: C+

S/NB
Needs of the WV system: Since the Mountaineers have done a good job protecting their safeties from challenging coverage assignments they simply need physical zone defenders who can break on the ball and tackle.
Takes:
Dravon Henry: 5-11, 190. Aliquippa, PA (Aliquippa)
Jaylon Myers (JUCO): 6-1, 190. Hutchinson, KS (Hutchinson C.C.)
Daejuan Funderburk (JUCO): 6-1, 188. Washington, D.C. (Friendship Collegiate Academy)

This is one of the best safety classes in the B12.
Dravon Henry is the prize and has the athleticism to play at corner but the Mountaineers appear to plan on using him at S, suggesting perhaps they tend to ask more of the position in the future. Henry is a nightmare to beat with deep tosses due to his range and plays on the ball.
Myers is another phenomenal prospect that showed on film the ability to turn and run with receivers, high point the ball, be physical in the box, and bait deep throw INT's from the QB. As a Cover-2 safety he'd be another terror.
Funderburk is a very physical player who brings the "funder" on receivers who go over the middle...I apologize...
His range is somewhat limited playing deep but his tackling and pursuit is excellent so I suspect he'll end up at nickelback for the Mountaineers.

Grade: A-

CB
Needs of the WV system: The Mountaineers need players who can hang with receivers tight in underneath coverage without getting abused over the top when they rotate into Cover-3 schemes.
Takes:
Kieshawn Richardson (JUCO): 5-11, 185. Miami, OK (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M J.C.)

Richardson has the speed to drive on passes while playing with a cushion, which makes him an upgrade over the corners I watched for them in 2012 if not 2013. He's probably about league average.

Grade: C-

Breakdown:
JUCO: 7
HS: 15
Total: 21

PA: 4
WV: 1
CA: 2
FL: 5
DC: 1
MS: 2
OK: 1
TX: 0
MD: 1
OH: 2
NC: 1
KS: 1
NC: 1

Holgorsen is wise to focus in Pennsylvania and Florida and by landing Tom Bradley he seriously upgrades the focus on D in his staff and boosts his ability to recruit the nearby state. I'm guessing that Florida has provided him with two great players in Preston and McCrary and there's a chance he can build some strong pipelines from the state.

The lack of quality takes on the DL would seriously concern me for the future as a Mountaineer fan but the infusion of athletes in the defensive backfield over the last two years has been impressive.

The lack of focus on Texas is fascinating, especially given Holgorsen's background in recruiting Texas high schools. However, PA+Florida can actually provide a recruiting base that is competitive with the rest of the league if they continue to land Dravon Henry's and Jacob McCrary's. Unearth an Aaron Donald or Louis Nix and we'll be talking.

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