CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With the signing of seven West Virginia players to Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision college programs last week, the football recruiting conversation unceremoniously turns to the Class of 2014.
Rivals.com released its initial Rivals 100 for the class Monday, ranking the top potential recruits among current high school juniors. Da'Shawn Hand, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive end at Woodbridge Senior High School in Woodbridge, Va., tops the list.
There are no players from the Mountain State among the Rivals 100, but that shouldn't come as a shock. George Washington's Ryan Switzer, a Parade All-American signee with North Carolina who garnered more recruiting attention than any West Virginia player this side of Randy Moss, never did crack the list, so the list must be taken with a few grains of salt, especially this early in the process.
The phrase "early in the process" should also be used carefully. While it certainly is early in the commitment process and any attempt at grading the recruiting classes of 2014, the actual recruiting process for individuals is well under way. Most offers and contact between D-I schools and recruits occur during the junior year. Very few players ever play their way into a D-I scholarship as seniors. It's a common mistake to believe that they do, but it's the American high school football myth nevertheless.
Make no mistake: college football recruiting is an industry unto itself. The plethora of combines, camps and competitions are all money-making ventures first and scouting tools second. The rate at which they have sprung up at nearly every college with a football program and the sponsorship deals that accompany them smell not of pigskin but of cold, hard cash.
A quick glance at the most frequented online recruiting databases, however, shows precious few West Virginia juniors, and none who have received a star rating of any kind as of yet. Rivals lists just Capital running back James Richmond and Princeton running back Taj-Sho Johnson in its database. If fans ready to cry foul think that's bad, one of Rivals' chief competitors, Scout.com, lists Richmond, Cabell Midland's David Gaydosz and Mingo Central's Joe May.
Gaydosz and May are seniors, and as such, members of the Class of 2013. Gaydosz is reportedly weighing a variety of options from several FCS programs, but nothing has been made official and he's certainly not going to be playing on the high school level next year.
Apparently the spike in D-I signings by West Virginians didn't leave much of an immediate impression on Scout.com.
ESPN is a sort of late arrival to the recruiting game, but apparently what it lacks in credibility, it makes up in quantity, which has become the modus operandi of the "Worldwide Leader" in the last 10 years. ESPN.com's database includes no fewer than 17 West Virginia juniors, many of which have scarcely been heard of outside their local areas.
Still others, like George Washington's Zach Malone, Spring Valley's Dylan Lageman, University's Tony Richardson, Hurricane's Koi Turner and Capital's Rayquon Vanover are coming off solid seasons in which they made positive impressions on the prep level. They all appear on ESPN's list.
ESPN has given none of the aforementioned players a star or grade rating.
West Virginia's Class of 2013 is likely its most talented since 2000. It does not, however, look like a game-changer in terms of how many football players from the state get Division I looks. The state's sparse population and resulting lack of competition that are frequently credited with how infrequently players here are recruited by such programs will most likely result in a swift return to the yearly average of two or three D-I recruits from here.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT