WVU football: Mountaineer camps good exposure
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Ryan Dorchester cannot talk specifically about prospective student-athletes who might one day play for West Virginia University.
WVU's coordinator of recruiting operations can only address those topics with generic language, lest he find trouble with the NCAA. That doesn't keep him from having good things to say about what's happening for the 2014 and 2015 football classes. Both made strides last week when five players committed following a stretch where WVU's conducted six of its seven summer camps.
"I would say it was really productive," Dorchester said. "Just to get about 28 schools down here for the 7-on-7 deal, to have a couple team camps, just to get coaches down here where a lot of them were from Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, to get those schools and those teams used to coming up here, that's good exposure.
"It's good for us and for a lot of the kids, whether they're seniors or underclassmen we might recruit the next couple of years. It's beneficial for them to come down here and (for WVU) to get to hang out with their coaches. It's always good for them to get familiar with us."
On many levels the territory being mined is familiar for WVU. Among last week's commitments for the 2014 class were Morgantown High offensive lineman Amanii Brown, highly desired Miami receivers Lamar Parker and Jacob McCrary and Ohio offensive lineman Josh Krok. Morgantown defensive lineman/tight end Stone Wolfley committed to the 2015 class.
The Mountaineers aren't really expanding their traditional recruiting base. More attention is being given to Atlanta and anywhere about two hours from its airport. Texas is more fruitful than it was before.
As far as significant changes go, that's about it. The move to the Big 12 hasn't dramatically altered WVU's recruiting philosophy, but it has helped.
"To be 100 percent honest we don't lock horns with Big 12 schools on recruiting a whole lot," Dorchester said. "On some guys, yes, but not real often do we go head-to-head when it comes down to us and another Big 12 school. We're probably unique in a lot of ways where we don't recruit a whole lot against the other teams in our conference."
Oklahoma spends some time on the East Coast and Oklahoma State is busy in Atlanta. Iowa State is surprisingly successful in South Florida and Texas Tech has pulled players from there as well. WVU rarely encounters coaches from Kansas and Kansas State while Texas, TCU and Baylor are committed to recruiting Texas.
Joining the Big 12 removed many obstacles for WVU's recruiting, namely the negative elements attached to the quality and the uncertain future of the now-renamed Big East, but it also removed some competitors. The Big 12 is a stronger conference than what's now known as the American Athletic Conference and has better postseason possibilities. The Mountaineers are in a more favorable position to recruit with those advantages than many of their regional peers.
If WVU doesn't have an advantage in perception, it can at least better argue its case against, say, Ohio State or Penn State, Miami or Florida State, as a Big 12 member than as a Big East member.
"Let's be honest. A kid growing up in this generation, he thinks Cincinnati is a relevant program in the scheme of college football just because they had a good couple of years," Dorchester said. "They don't understand what teams are actually good, whereas Oklahoma and Texas, those names resonate with people. In the Big East, what school resonated with people in a historical perspective?
"Syracuse and Pitt claim those national titles, but no one we're recruiting was alive for them. So it's definitely helped us because the one thing we're trying to push to our kids is that you're more than just a regional star. You're going to get national exposure. We're a coast-to-coast conference in a lot of ways."
The Mountaineers have six players committed to the 2014 class, tied with Kansas State for the second-lowest total in the Big 12 and better than only Kansas and its five pledges. Don't expect WVU to quickly catch up to the 19 names in the Texas and Baylor classes.
When Dana Holgorsen took over as head coach he had to address his roster, which was affected by the small size of previous classes and by attrition. The Mountaineers ended up taking 32 and 27 players in back-to-back years just to get things even again.
Dorchester said the 2014 class will probably need 20 players, though the number may go higher depending on unpredictable events that could occur during the 2013 season. Wolfley is the first player in what should be a full 2015 class.
"This won't be as big of a class because we don't have as many scholarships as we have had in the past," Dorchester said. "The last two years, we signed pretty big classes, so this one won't be huge.
"We're still targeting guys at every spot, just like we always try to do, but I guess the only difference is we won't do specialists (for 2014). I think in every class, you've got to take somebody at every spot, or at least get somebody who projects at every spot. If not, you'll have a hole somewhere."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.