MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - With very little drama, West Virginia took a very big step toward developing its football program in the image desired Wednesday. The Mountaineers revealed a recruiting class with 21 players and proudly proclaimed to be right at the scholarship limit.
Football Bowl Subdivision teams are allowed to grant 85 scholarships, but WVU hasn't been there in many years and not once in coach Dana Holgorsen's first three seasons.
"When you're talking about the difference between 78 and 85 guys, you can say it's just seven guys," said Ryan Dorchester, WVU's recruiting coordinator. "Well, that's seven guys spread out throughout your entire team that you identified and that you recruited as guys you think are good enough to help you win the league. You're assuming all the kids you're recruiting are going to help you win the conference. The difference is not having them on the roster. We're finally taking full advantage of something that's going to be new for this place."
See also: West Virginia University signees
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WHAT STARTED WITH Aliquippa, Pa., defensive back Dravon Henry at just after 7 a.m. and ended with California junior college offensive lineman Justin Scott right before 3 p.m. included three other defensive backs and four other offensive linemen, plus three defensive linemen, three linebackers, two quarterbacks, three receivers and one running back in between.
Technically, though, WVU will count two running backs and 22 players in the class. Rushel Shell, who played as a freshman at Pitt in 2012 and transferred to WVU and sat out last season, was a walk-on in the fall. Holgorsen said Wednesday Shell was put on scholarship at the start of the spring semester and he and the four junior college transfers and two early high school graduates who enrolled in January count in this class.
The other running back, Hillside (N.C.) star Donte Thomas-Williams, was one of the day's surprises. The 6-foot, 220-pound Thomas-Williams, who rushed for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior, was uncommitted and picked the Mountaineers at a ceremony at his school in the morning. He had scholarship offers from every major conference.
"I thought we had a shot at Donte," said running backs coach JaJuan Seider, who worked with receivers coach Lonnie Galloway to sign Thomas-Williams. "He came up to camp this summer and after he left us he went to Ohio State. As soon as that kid left Ohio State's camp, he called me, and usually that doesn't happen. Me and coach Galloway beat that kid up. We rotated like every other week. We wanted that kid to know how important he was to the program."
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THE ONLY OTHER developments during the day came along the offensive line. Dontae Angus, a 6-6, 330-pound starter on the offensive and defensive lines at Philadelphia's Martin Luther King High, switched from Florida to WVU early in the day. Later on, the Mountaineers released their class and said they were at their limit without a signed national letter of intent from Jamie Herr of Maryland's Eastern Christian Academy. Herr, who committed in July, is not expected to be a part of the recruiting class.