National Signing Day: WVU class part of new-look defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- National Signing Day is dedicated to numbers in football, and numbers defined Wednesday at West Virginia.
The focus wasn't the size of the recruiting class, the number of players from Florida, who ran the fastest 40-yard dash and who had the most yards receiving, but rather the alignment of the new defense.
WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen officially declared what had long been suspected. The 3-3-5 odd stack is no more, and the Mountaineers will use a blend of the 3-4 and the 4-3 beginning next year.
The 26-player recruiting class, which includes five players who enrolled last month and 21 who signed Wednesday, features 12 defensive players who will have a chance to grow into the new look.
"We wanted some more edge rush guys playing because we're going to more of a 3-4 scheme than the stack," Holgorsen said. "The stack uses more middle linebacker-type bodies, which we have on campus.
"We needed to be able to get some outside linebacker guys who'll be able to gain weight and come down and be defensive ends and guys who can come off the line and rush. We got two or three bodies we were looking for as far as being outside guys."
He mentioned Korey Harris, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end from St. Augustine, Fla., as a pass rusher, and linebacker Garrett Hope (6-3, 225, The Woodlands, Texas), defensive lineman Noble Nwachukwu (6-2, 240, Wylie, Texas) and safety Sean Walters (6-2, 195, Hallandale Beach, Fla.) as future outside linebackers.
The 2012 class has two other defensive linemen, and 6-1, 280-pound Imarjaye Albury and 6-3, 290-pound Christian Brown already have enrolled. The only other linebacker is 6-2, 215-pound Sam Lebbie, a middle player from DeMatha Catholic High, in Washington D.C.
Holgorsen hired Joe DeForest from Oklahoma State last month to be at least the WVU co-coordinator on defense, and DeForest said he met with all the defensive players before signing day.
He was impressed right away. The first player he visited was K.J. Dillon, a 6-2, 180-pound safety from Apopka, Fla.
"I went to his door and I said, 'Wow, I hope that's you. Please, be K.J.,' " DeForest said. "It was, thank God."
DeForest said he explained to Dillon and the other nine who weren't already enrolled just what his philosophy is for the defense, and for the positions and what role the players would fill.
"I think we recruited long, lean, skilled kids who can run," DeForest said. "Wherever they fit, whether it's corner, safety, outside linebacker, receiver-to-corner, corner-to-receiver, it doesn't matter. They all fit and we're going to figure out where once we get what I call the inventory of the team."
WVU signed one quarterback. Ford Childress, from Houston, already is enrolled. Holgorsen said running backs Roshard Burney (5-10, 205, Lake Park, Fla.) and Torry Clayton (5-9, 195, Florida City, Fla.) should both compete right away.
They complement rising sophomores Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, who are lighter, quicker backs.
"The more guys who can carry the ball the better," Holgorsen said.
"These two guys will be give us some strength in the backfield. And as we saw last year, when we started camp with five guys and were down to two for the bowl game, there's wear and tear at that position. You need a lot of bodies."
WVU loaded up elsewhere on offense and signed four offensive linemen, which was the goal. Included is junior college transfer Mark Glowinski. The 6-5, 290-pound Glowinski started the last two years at Lackawanna College (Scranton, Pa.). Holgorsen said Golwinski will compete right away for the starting left tackle spot left open by Don Barclay's graduation.
The Mountaineers signed seven receivers, and four or five will play inside, including 6-1 Deontay McManus, from Baltimore's Dunbar High, where Tavon Austin went to school.
McManus is arguably the highest-rated recruit in the class and could play inside or outside, but will get a long look inside because of his skill and because of the team's need.
"We lost every inside receiver but Tavon, and he's probably going to get a little bit of attention this year," inside receivers coach Shannon Dawson said. "What we sold these kids was who ever gets to come in and play opposite of Tavon is probably going to catch a lot of balls."
That's a certainty with WVU's offense and what Holgorsen has proven through the years. There is less known about WVU's new defense.
DeForest is working with remaining safeties coach Steve Dunlap and whoever else on the staff can give DeForest the background on returning players.
He said he'll have to learn his personnel through winter conditioning and then spring practice before things can take form. Whether that form is a 3-4 or a 4-3 will vary because DeForest plans to be neither one or the other.
"Multiple," he said. "You won't be able to tell at times if we're 3-4 or 4-3. I will, we will, because the looks, a lot of times, will be exactly the same."
DeForest spent the previous 11 years as a defensive assistant at Oklahoma State and got to know the Big 12 Conference quite well. He said the defenses vary there, too, but the offenses are mostly the same.
With only a few exceptions, everyone runs a spread offense, which he said means the defense has to be able to disguise and adapt.
Situations may dictate using a 4-3 instead of a 3-4, and vice versa, but DeForest said there is no difference.
"There's none at all," he said. "It's a slight front look. It's still multiple, but 4-3 and 3-4 is based on the personnel you have on the field and what they can do.
"It gives you flexibility and gives you multiple looks. You better have more athletes on the field and you better have more speed to cover the offense we run here at West Virginia, because it's all over the Big 12."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.