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WVU football: Recruiting a tricky situation for Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Since the day West Virginia ended its season celebrating on the field at USF, six players have pledged to be a part of the 2012 recruiting class.

Some would prefer to say the players have "committed," but others would say you ought to be "committed" to put certainty into the promises made by 17- and 18-year-old kids or the academic qualifications that are supposed to attach player to college.

Nevertheless, the six additions - three defensive backs, one defensive lineman, one receiver and a tight end (no, really) - give the Mountaineers 27 players on the list for the class of 2012.

NCAA rules prohibit schools from enrolling more than 25 scholarship players in a class.

It might look like a problem, but it's one the Mountaineers are managing as they approach national signing day on Feb. 1.

For starters, there is a difference between a player who enrolls and a player who signs. In theory, WVU could sign as many players as it wants, but only 25 can enroll as part of a class, and those 25 can't push the team above the limit of 85 scholarships.

Ideally, all 27 of the players on the list, plus however many more the coaches add before they reach the finish line, will all enroll and play for the Mountaineers, who do have a few leftover scholarships.

It's when they enroll that matters.

On the 2011 signing day, WVU announced 23 signings. Six - quarterbacks Paul Millard and Brian Athey, twins Vernard and Vance Roberts, linebacker Josh Francis and cornerback Avery Williams - already were enrolled. They counted toward the 2010 class.

So, in truth, the Mountaineers signed 23 players that day, but only had to count 17 toward 2011. Yet two of those 17 - offensive lineman Justin Johnson and defensive lineman Ben Bradley - never enrolled. When everything settled, WVU's actual 2011 recruiting class had only 15 players.

That left the Mountaineers with a lot of room, although some of those leftover scholarships were given to walk-ons or later additions to the program, like receiver Devon Brown, linebacker Steve Paskorz and safety Matt Moro.

The program pushed closer to 85 scholarships, but ultimately started the season with just 78 in a year the NCAA allowed it only 84 because of WVU's infractions case.

Some players will leave here shortly either because of graduation or their own decision, and when they do will matter for how WVU absorbs those 27, or more, additions.

Although they're preparing for the 2012 recruiting class, the Mountaineers have 10 open spots in the 2011 recruiting class, which means they can add 10 players on scholarship in January, but only if they have the room.

That might happen because of either December graduates or players on scholarship who leave after the fall semester.

Both leave scholarships behind that free up room on the way to 85 ... and WVU returns to the full capacity for next season.

Should WVU add, say, 10 players in January and only have eight spots, the other two can enroll, but they count toward the 2012 class. WVU could then only enroll 23 others for the fall semester - again, as long as the roster doesn't surpass 85 scholarships

Either way, WVU wants as many January enrollees as is feasible, so much so that Coach Dana Holgorsen focused mainly on those possibilities when he was out recruiting earlier this month.

His assistants were busy targeting the committed kids and making late pushes for others during the contact period, where an assistant could visit a recruit one day a week - even if that was multiple times on that one day.

Holgorsen was only allowed to see a player once and he was locked on the potential midyear additions. WVU is likely to add a handful, depending on the size of your hand, because the benefit is that obvious.

"If a kid wants to get on the field earlier, the fact they get to go through spring football without having to worry about preparing to play helps," said Ryan Dorchester, WVU's graduate assistant in charge of recruiting operations. "It's just a different mindset for them in the spring.

"You're in a new place. You're new to college. Your world's been rocked and you're trying to figure out which way is up. If they can do it, you can take away those kids away from having to worry about getting ready for an opponent so there's less pressure.

"If they don't pick up the offense immediately, it's OK because we have tomorrow to come back to it instead of having to do that and worry about beating that first opponent."

It's tricky, though. Some high schools don't allow it. Some have schedules that don't mesh with WVU's. Some junior colleges have curriculum that doesn't match with WVU's. Some prep players prefer their senior year and the prom over an early start in college. Some transcripts can't meet the enrollment requirements until a full year is complete.

It requires work and attention and explains why this is the majority of WVU's focus late in the recruiting cycle. There have been changes at places that might affect and potentially benefit the Mountaineers, but not much energy is going in that direction.

Scandal at Penn State and a coaching change at Pitt have, at least in perception, reintroduced prospects to the market, but WVU isn't expected to pursue or even target a lot of those players, many of whom weren't even recruited by the Mountaineers for various and obvious reasons.

There's just not enough time left to make late pushes. They might not even work as the Mountaineers try to pull together a large recruiting class in a BCS year.

"Just because a situation blew up doesn't necessarily mean a kid is going to change his mind," Dorchester said. "If you want a kid who had no legitimate interest in your school to get interested and get to know your school and feel real comfortable, that can take like two or three months. You may not want to spend the time with a kid who may in the end stick with his decision."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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