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December 24, 2013

WVSports.com: Holiday Q&A

The WVSports.com staff takes your questions and provides you with insight on Mountaineer sports and recruiting.

What needs to happen for us recruiting-wise to be able to be regulars again in the top 25 (fball AND bball)? Coaching upgrades? Facility upgrades? What specifically?

I think West Virginia is on the right track in terms of recruiting after bringing in the best class in the Rivals.com era a year ago and looking as if they have a chance to finish very strong again this season.

However, you can never have enough good players on your roster and the coaching staff will need to continue to build depth especially up front on both sides of the ball. That is the one noticeable difference to me so far in the move to the Big 12 Conference is just the overall depth that each team in the league has at positions across the board and the number of players that are forced into action on a game-by-game basis.

Facility improvements are definitely critical for both sports to compete with many of the programs in the Big 12 and that is something that will need to be looked at on an annual basis.

On the basketball side of things, I trust that Coach Huggins is fully aware with what he's doing and while last season is not the result that anyone wanted, this team has shown signs of great improvement and two of the players haven't even taken the floor all season yet. It is a work in progress but I believe there is reason for optimism with both teams moving forward.

You can pick any one guy from this year's football team to grant one more year of eligibility. Who do you pick and why?

The obvious choice here is running back Charles Sims due to what he could do with the ball in his hands either on the ground or through the air, and it will be no easy task for the Mountaineers to replace his production or leadership. Sims eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for West Virginia for the first time since 2009, finishing his only season with the Mountaineers with 1,095 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding 45 receptions for 401 more yards and three scores.

To but it simply, Sims was able to make things happen when there wasn't much room and was the lone bright spot for the Mountaineers all year long on the offensive side of the ball. Regardless of the current depth, there is no way you can argue that adding Sims back to the roster wouldn't be a major boost for West Virginia heading into a difficult 2014 schedule.

Keno the red shirts this year who and how many have you heard will be a player for us.

Players that redshirted this season include: junior running back Andrew Buie, sophomore defensive lineman Christian Brown, junior linebacker Shaq Petteway, sophomore running back Rushel Shell, junior offensive lineman Stone Underwood, freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson, freshmen linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, freshman fullback Elijah Wellman, freshman safety Isaac McDonald, freshman wide receiver Jacky Marcellus, freshman linebacker Hodari Christian, freshman safety Malik Greaves, freshman offensive lineman Marcell Lazard, freshman offensive lineman Tyler Tezeno and freshman offensive lineman Grant Lingafelter.

I think that several of these players, either freshmen or transfers, have the potential to see the field early next season notably Rushel Shell and Shelton Gibson.

Can you give an update on Isaac McDonald? Where did he take reps during the season? LB or S?

McDonald was recruited to play safety, but given his size it was always assumed that he would drop down and play either linebacker or possibly on the defensive line if he continues to develop. Talking with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson after the Iowa State game, there are a lot of spots he could see the field as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame and it would be surprising to see him not at least begin his career at one of the linebacker spots.

Any idea why we did not offer Terry Swanson from Alliquipa. That dude can play and it may have put a hit on Pitt

Simply put, the West Virginia coaches must have had prospects they liked better. Swanson worked out in front of the West Virginia coaches at one of the one-day camps in early June and that allowed the coaches to get a look at him and make their own evaluations with their own eyes as opposed to watching film. I do agree Swanson is a good player and did some nice things at the camp, but ultimately those calls are made by the coaches.

2015 recruiting...any new names? Who is on the QB short list?

Recruiting for 2015 is going very well so far an West Virginia is a program that is attracting a lot of interest from juniors as is evident with the Mountaineers already securing three commitments. New offers continue to go out including pair last week to 2015 Florida wide receivers John Burt and Shaquery Wilson, and you'll see more and more throughout the process.

As for quarterback, it's a little too early to narrow down the field but one prospect that plans to visit for the junior day in February is McDonald (Pa.) South Fayette signal caller Brett Brumbaugh who tossed for 3,910 yards and 41 touchdowns a season ago while leading his team to a class AA title.

Will Jacky Marcellus be full go this spring? what skills guys could have an impact next year?

I don't expect any issues there with Marcellus. He had told me just prior to getting on campus that he was doing well and he made some waves early in fall camp. I think with an entire season to strengthen his knee and the winter conditioning program, he should be more than ready to go.

As for skill players, you have to circle all of the returning guys from a season ago because they will another full off-season to acclimate themselves in the offense and become more comfortable with what is expected of them. As I mentioned above, fully expect that Rushel Shell and Shelton Gibson will be given every opportunity to make an impact, while Marcellus could make some waves as well.

With more emphasis in recent years on recruiting JUCO players, do you think there's less team chemistry and less pride on our team then when we recruited high school players almost exclusively?

Quite simply I don't. This season I don't necessarily think it was an issue with chemistry or pride, more that the Mountaineers simply never really developed continuity on offense and the defense had its issues at times as well, too. The Mountaineers finished 4-8, but easily could have won more games as they lost two in overtime and had at least one more slip through their fingers.

From talking with junior college players in interviews or during their recruitment, they are much more mature in their approach than pre prospects and each of them understand what they are coming into. Fan favorite Shaq Rowell is an example of a player endearing himself to a fan base with his pride in the state and the program, and he also was a product of the junior college ranks.

Other than the obvious (QB), what position or positions do you believe will be the biggest key to significant improvement next season?

West Virginia must get better up front on the offensive line. Although the unit had times that it stuck out, more often than not the group struggled during the season. Finding the five right bodies to help the Mountaineers control the line of scrimmage and help the quarterback, regardless who it is, off the turf will be essential for the Mountaineers.

Defensively, the line also will be key replacing several stalwarts, and the secondary continues to be something to watch as the Mountaineers have struggled with consistency there as well.

Turning the tables on you a little bit, if you could close this football recruiting class with any five guys we still have a legitimate shot at, who would those five be? And why?

I think out of the remaining realistic prospects left on the board, West Virginia would be doing very well to close with a combination of the Durham (N.C.) Hillside duo of running back Donte Thomas-Williams and wide receiver Trevion Thompson, Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln C.C. tight end Darrion Hutcherson, Roswell (N.M.) New Mexico Military Institute defensive end Terry Ayeni and Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate Academy safety Daejuan Funderburk.

Two other prospects I'd also consider for a while for those five spots would be Cincinnati (Oh.) Colerain linebacker Tegray Scales and New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) safety D'Cota Dixon. I think you can make an argument for plenty of other prospects but in terms of need and how legitimate I believe the Mountaineers chances are this would be my group. All of these players address a need, while each of them has the ability to serve as difference makers at the next level.

Any changes (you don't have to name names) possible/likely on the football coaching staff? How long has it been since we had the same staff in back-to-back years?

While you never can be sure with these issues, so far I have not heard and whispers of possible attrition to the current group of coaches. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has assembled a staff that not only has ties to the program, but has done an admirable job on the recruiting trail thus far. Still, the group will be judged by how they are able to get results on the field, especially after a disappointing 4-8 campaign. The nature of college coaching is a lot of turnover, it happens with promotions or people being replaced, but it definitely wouldn't hurt for the Mountaineers to bring back their core for next season.

Any idea what the pros think of Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke? I have to believe it would help DL recruiting if we put a few more guys in the league.

I think both will have opportunities, but you'll start to get a better idea with the Pro Days and the combines that will be coming up in March and April. Rowell and Clarke really improved during their time at West Virginia and their play this season has really put them in a position to have the opportunity to be selected in the draft, but like most things it will come down to how well they perform for scouts in the coming months.

If you could pick one big-ticket facilities/infrastructure item (other than a hot tub on the roof of the press box) to make priority one, what would it be? And why?

I do agree with head coach Dana Holgorsen in the fact that West Virginia needs a fully functional indoor practice facility and that should be one of the primary focuses of the facilities plan not only for practice purposes but to help in recruiting to compete with other programs in the Big 12 Conference.

Also at the top of the list are renovations to the Coliseum, for both the fan base such as suites and the athletics aspect of the building to modernize the facility and make it more appealing from a recruiting and aesthetic perspective.

And one basketball question: Who do you think has the biggest upside among this season's freshmen?

This is a difficult question because there is a lot to like about all three of the freshmen on this year's team, but the pick for me is Devin Williams. He has been up and down thus far in his West Virginia career, but that's to be expected of a young player, however, his skill set is very intriguing and his ability to rebound the basketball is by far tops on his year's edition of the Mountaineers.

Williams will need to continue to develop his post-game and work on his outside shooting, but as he continues to become more comfortable I believe there is a lot of room for him to improve his overall game and become a premier low-post option for the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Conference.

At RB, will Garrison receive a medical redshirt? What is the status of Buie?

Haven't heard of a medical redshirt for Garrison, but that doesn't mean it isn't a possibility. As for Buie, he has indicated that he plans to return in January and rejoin the team and the coaching staff has only reinforced those comments by saying that they expect him to return as well.

At WR, what is the status of Carswell?

Head Coach Dana Holgorsen said that the status of Carswell would be decided sometime after the season and to so far that has not happened at least publicly. I expect you will have a better idea in the coming weeks and a definitive answer by the time spring ball rolls around.

Is Garrett Hope staying at H-Back or returning to D?

I'll have a much better idea once spring ball gets a little closer, but Hope told me that when he was originally moved back in fall camp the coaches had told him that if he moved to the offensive side to play fullback he wouldn't be asked to move back and could stay at the position moving forward. At the time, that seemed like the direction he wanted to continue to go in for the rest of his career.

At LB, can you give an update on the progression of Hodari Christian?

Christian made a push in fall camp to avoid a redshirt, but instead was able to sit this season out to get bigger in the weight room and further prepare himself to see the field next year. I fully expect that Christian will have plenty of opportunities to make some waves next year, especially given the Mountaineers struggles at the linebacker position this past season.

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