MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A year ago, National Signing Day for West Virginia was mostly absent of surprises except J.T. Washington's decision to back out of a commitment to the Mountaineers and join Arizona.
The Wildcats had recently hired three WVU defensive assistant coaches and one, David Lockwood, had gotten to know Washington quite well.
Jump ahead a year to Wednesday's letter of intent day. The Mountaineers had their newly hired Arizona coach and Tony Gibson turned two Arizona commits into WVU signees.
"It happens in recruiting," Gibson said. "Some people say it's unethical, but that's what it has become right now. I'm not trying to say it in a bad way. That's recruiting and some guys are calling kids and trying to steal them at the end.
"Everyone is doing it. Is it right? Is it wrong? That's for somebody else to judge other than college coaches who are only trying to get the best guys for their program."
Gibson's two players, receiver Mario Alford and outside linebacker Brandon Golson, were among the 25 players to sign with WVU and the three players to make decisions that benefited the Mountaineers. Safety Jeremy Tyler was uncommitted and picked WVU over Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and Texas Tech.
Seven junior college or high school players enrolled last month and signed letters Wednesday. The other 18 junior college and high school players signed Wednesday. Rivals.com ranked WVU's haul No. 24 nationally, Scout.com No. 26 and ESPN No. 32.
"We identified the guys that wanted to be here," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We put together a list of 18 people that we thought would sign and all 18 signed."
Gibson was one of the three assistants Holgorsen hired last month and each had a hand in arranging Holgorsen's second recruiting class, the first to make the most the 2012 Orange Bowl victory.
"My first week here, Dana says to me, 'Stay in the office and get to know your players,'" WVU cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said. "The next day I was on the road to see Daryl Worley, Al-Rasheed Benton, Marcel Lazard. I hit the ground running. I didn't have time to sit and take account of all the things I had to get down, like moving my family, learning the scheme, learning my locker combination."
Gibson got to work on recruiting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania for next season, but also swooped into Georgia Military College to get Alford and Golson to visit and ultimately change their minds.
New receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, who coached the 2008-10 seasons and worked three months on Holgorsen's staff in 2011 before leaving for Wake Forest, helped the recruitment of Alford and Cleveland receiver Shelton Gipson, who is arguably WVU's top offensive recruit.
In addition to getting a head start in Atlanta, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for next season, Galloway defined his role as a "friendly face to talk to."