MORGANTOWN - The rude reality of college football is that it's governed in part by a prickly paradox. Defensive line is the most difficult position to recruit, but defensive line play is most critical to a team's success. A defense can ruin an offense's best designs by invading the backfield and deconstructing blocking schemes with just three or four players up front.
They can do it themselves, or they can make life wonderfully easier on the players behind them.
That said, the competition among so many schools for so few impact kids makes it extraordinarily difficult to get those players in a dormitory at your favorite school.
This is not news at West Virginia, which has had a few players grow into very good and sometimes professional quality defensive linemen in the past several years, but really hasn't been especially skilled at recruiting big-time talent there.
With the new defense in place for 2012 and new coaches on hand to teach it, there remains that constant concern: Can WVU recruit the defensive line?
Erik Slaughter, the firstyear defensive line coach who spent the previous three years at Stephen F. Austin and last year helped the Lumberjacks lead the nation with 4.36 sacks per game, will scour his recruiting region. He'll comb the football fields in Orlando and the west coast of Florida, but also allow the Mountaineers to think nationally.
Truth be told, though, the future of the line may already be on campus.
A year ago, Kyle Rose was a 230-pound freshman defensive end who redshirted and then put on the freshman 15 for himself and two others.
Today, he's a 6-foot-4 inch, 275-pound defensive tackle.
He is the new visage of WVU defensive linemen, if not in person, then in profile.
"It's hard to find really good defensive linemen who are ready to play as young guys," Slaughter said. "What I always try to do is get guys with height and the ability to run.
"What I know about college life is a guy is always going to get bigger. He's going to grow up and be heavier. He's not going to get taller or faster most of the time. I want as many fast, tall guys as I can get."
A few schools can find the few recruits who are physically and mentally prepared to play in the torturous trenches.
Those are the gems of any recruiting class, and the precious stones belong to a precious few schools.
WVU is a lot of things, but it is not LSU or Alabama or anyone else among the recruiting royalty that makes that particular hard task look so easy.
Slaughter gets that.
"Those schools get the guys who are ready-made," he said. "The rest are either big enough and can't move well enough or move well enough but aren't big enough to play.
I want guys who are tall enough to grow to where they can handle themselves. If you get a 6-foot guy who can move, how much bigger is he going to get? If you get a 6-5 guy who can move, he can put weight on."