Should we be a little worried about our DL recruiting yet and if not please give us some reasons to hope. Who are our top DL prospects and what are our chances of signing them?
There's no doubt that quality defensive linemen are the hardest positions to fill in recruiting and it's the reason that the premier prospects are some of the most highly recruited in the country.
Recruiting DL is always going to be a concern. While changing defenses might appear to help on the surface with the 3-4 supposedly helping prospects get into the NFL better than the 3-3-5, it's still a 3 man front. Should you be worried? No. Look no further than the class that was brought in last year for the DL. The extra effort put in to recruit the big guys is paying off and with an equal effort this year the defensive line depth should not be an issue.
West Virginia has options here in this class and remains in the mix with a number of players.
On the interior, although he recently offered up a commitment to Maryland Jacksonville (Fla.) Mandarin defensive tackle Kingsley Opara remains a prospect to keep a very close eye on as the recruiting process moves forward. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound prospect was set to commit to West Virginia July 20 before a last minute change of heart and hasn't visited campus yet. He's said that an official visit to Morgantown definitely isn't out of the equation and is likely to occur.
Two Florida prospects that are high on the Mountaineers are Sarasota Booker defensive end Eric Mayes and Miami Norland edge rusher Paul James. The pair both list West Virginia among their top groupings and plan to visit on official visits this fall. Among the other options are Orange Park (Fla.) defensive lineman De'Asian Richardson, Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar edge rusher Marvin Gross, Shaker Heights (Oh.) defensive tackle Donovan Munger, Lake Whales (Fla.) defensive tackle Bobby Leath, Columbus (Oh.) Eastmoor defensive end Devon Edwards and Canton (Oh.) McKinley defensive end Antoine Miles, all of which have said they plan to visit West Virginia this fall. And as always is the case, securing a visit is the first step in working towards a potential commitment.
Remember you can always check out the WVSports.com 2013 Football Recruiting Hotboard for our take on prospects the Mountaineers are recruiting. http://westvirginia.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1366037
I see 3 corners we can play with- Miller, Jenkins, Avery Williams. We need a 4th. Someone between Level and Chestnut. Hard to expect a true freshman to play, right?
As of right now it appears Terrell Chestnut and Cecil Level will, more than likely, fall behind the top three on the cornerback depth chart. However, it was truly hard to gauge the full scope of cornerback talent the Mountaineers had in the spring as injuries plagued much of the unit. But during that time players such as Chestnut and Level were able to push their way up the depth chart.
Along with Chestnut and Level, look for redshirt senior Lawrence Smith to possibly contribute some this season, as he did throughout much of spring camp. Also don't rule out senior Matt Moro possibly getting some snaps at corner, too.
Ultimately, it depends on who is healthy and who makes a sudden impact in the early stages of fall camp. True freshmen Nana Kyeremeh, Rick Rumph and Brandon Napoleon will all be given a fair shake during fall camp, but it remains to be seen how much they can be counted on from the jump.
It was also hard to get a read on Coach Robert's opinion of the younger guys throughout spring, but as he said time and time again, they will play the best players, regardless of class rank. That adamant statement, could leave the door open for a true freshman, but it remains to be seen if one will take advantage of it.
Is Dustin Garrison full go for camp? Meaning contact and all? WIll he be ready to play in Game 1?
This is something that we will be attempting to observe during fall camp. During the summer all reports are that the sophomore was making great strides in his recovery from ACL surgery during the winter, but at last update he had yet to start cutting on it. How he comes along and what he's able to do during fall camp obviously will be a telling sign on how far he's come in terms of a recovery and if he'll be able to suit up for week one. But one thing is for sure, Garrison believes he will be ready.
Deforest also said Ok State played 18 true freshmen last year? How many do you see playing? How many specifically on D? What Freshman DL not named Albury is going to play this year. One of those end/rush types might need to play
If there is one thing you can say about this coaching staff it's the simple fact that there is no apprehension in playing true freshmen if they are ready to compete and help the team. Last season both Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie earned starts at running back, including both topping the depth chart at various points throughout the season. Jared Barber also saw significant minutes at linebacker once he had adjusted to the college game.
That brings us to this year and a talented recruiting class on deck. I think the potential is there for several players to see the field at the wide receiver spot, but since you've asked specifically for defense I believe you will see several freshmen on the field there as well.
Erik Slaughter made it clear on multiple occasions that the incoming freshmen on the defensive line better come in with the expectation of trying to make an impact and outside of early enrollee Imarjaye Albury there will be opportunities for the remaining group of Eric Kinsey, Christian Brown, Noble Nwachukwu and Korey Harris.
In the secondary, Karl Joseph will almost assuredly see the field at safety after making quite an impression with his play and maturity level. Early enrollee Sean Walters also has a chance to carve out a role at one of the linebacker spots, but it's a much more crowded field.
Of the newcomers, keep a close eye on Kimlon Dillon as he has impressed throughout the summer, and any of the three true freshmen corners due to depth at the position.
What is the coaching staff doing to keep our athletes focused and prepped and avoiding complacency?
Head coach Dana Holgorsen has said it on a number of occasions during the offseason but when anyone talks up the success of the offense especially in light of the historic 70-point performance in the Orange Bowl, he's quick to remind them of the prior performance against South Florida where the offense struggled. In my time covering the team, this staff keeps players focused on improvement and doesn't allow them to feel as though they can become complacent by continuously challenging them to raise the bar. On the flip side, the players also have taken the move to a new conference and what lies ahead to heart and have spent much of what's been called a grueling summer in strength and conditioning to prepare for Big 12 play.
We have seen what Jordan Thompson can do. Geno seems excited about all the true freshmen receivers and singled out Will Johnson as a player to watch. What are the early reports on Johnson and Devonte Robinson? Will they both play as true freshmen?
Fall camp will be the ultimate determination, but if summer reports from fellow players are any indication both of these players have made quite the impression on their teammates during 7-on-7 drills.
Johnson, an Osseo, Mn. native, is a big-bodied inside wide receiver prospect that should be able to utilize his 6-foot-7 frame and athletic ability to create mismatches for the Mountaineers. Personally, I'm very excited to see the dynamic Johnson will bring to the offense and how he will fit in at the tight end position especially given his natural athletic abilities.
Robinson on the other hand is a 6-foot-1, 170-pound, outside receiver that has plenty of speed and play making ability. When talking with one player during summer interview sessions, Robinson was singled out for not only his speed but how impressive and polished he looked during 7-on-7 work. Granted it wasn't organized football with pads, but it definitely had caught the attention of members of the team.
Getting in early in the summer to get acclimated to the weight lifting program is a huge boost for both and while the questions will remain until fall camp is in full-swing both have made an early case to avoid a possible redshirt and get into the mix at wide receiver.
What do you believe is the greatest position of need going forward with the remaining spots left in this recruiting cycle?
I believe the two areas that will need to be addressed with the remaining spots in this cycle are the defensive line and the cornerback positions due to the overall lack of depth at each. Defensive line is already thin and will be losing even more at season's end most notably starter Jorge Wright, so bringing in a group much like last year's efforts will be essential to continue to develop depth along the front. At cornerback, senior Pat Miller will graduate at season's end and as we addressed above there are plenty of question marks below Brodrick Jenkins and Avery Williams. I'd expect you will see at least three corners in this class if possible to help bring some more talent and depth to the position.
How do you feel about the free safety position for this Fall in terms of talent and depth? We've had some great players at the position for the last several years. Can that continue?
I see no reason that the streak can't continue especially given the talent that will be available at the position. Redshirt junior Travis Bell will get the first crack at the spot and is a very athletic player that has played well when given the opportunity, but a number of players figure to be in the mix including the talented true freshman early enrollee Karl Joseph.
How are special teams being coached differently than last year, both in terms of philosophy and what combination of coaches are being utilized?
The most surprising impact of the recent coaching changes this past spring appeared to surround the special teams. Throughout each practice, the Mountaineers would spend the first 15-20 minutes focusing specifically on special teams coverage and return. And this wasn't simply one or two coaches, it was the entire staff overseeing the units and showing involvement with the units.
Furthermore, the skill players talked during the spring on how the new coaches have helped refine their respective games. Take for example punter Michael Molinari, who spoke out on numerous occasions about being "more coached up" this season and for finally having "somebody that holds us accountable now."
But while every coach seemed to have a hand in coverage during the spring, Coach Joe DeForest appeared to be the most hands-on with the special team.
"Since Coach DeForest got here it's been really good for me, because I was never coached up or taught how to punt at all before, I kind of taught myself," Molinari said. "But, since he's been here we've been watching film and this spring has been a real good learning experience for me just fixing my technique."
With the new staff comes a more intense focus on all aspects of the special teams, and it showed with their performance in the spring. Along with the praise of the new staff's handling of the unit by players such as Molinari, it is safe to say there is a new philosophy surrounding the entire special team this fall.
How is Imarjaye Albury looking? I would think that getting in early and being available for spring training and in the weight program would be a huge benefit. Do you think he'll be able to contribute this year?
Albury is seemingly entering Morgantown at the perfect time for a young defensive lineman. It is no surprise that the defensive line is, by and large, the most unproven unit for the Mountaineers this upcoming season, and for a true freshman entering the program with a spring under his belt, that could pay huge dividends in the future.
Throughout spring camp, Coach Slaughter and many of his teammates singled out Albury for his impressive play and dedication on and off the field. Considering the amount of substitutions Slaughter and the defensive staff want to make on any given drive, there is plenty of room for a true freshman to see significant playing time. And with an impressive spring under his belt, look for Albury to contribute to the defensive line rotation this season.
Will Smoke actually visit WVU and give us a true look before he announces?
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside running back Taquan Mizzell is one of the most dynamic athletes in the country, but the Mountaineers face an up-hill battle against current favorite Virginia. It isn't that Mizzell doesn't have any actual interest in West Virginia; just more that he's comfortable with UVA and has been there on multiple occasions. For the Mountaineers to have any real shot of supplanting the Cavaliers from the top spot a visit must occur. And therein lies the problem. Mizzell has said he planned to visit Morgantown on multiple occasions since during the spring but that visit has yet to materialize. Time isn't on the Mountaineers side either as the doomsday clock for a decision is set for August 21. It's the million dollar question surrounding West Virginia recruiting but one way or another; it will be answered in the upcoming weeks.
Nick Kindler and Marquis Lucas, How are these 2 progressing?
I spoke with Marquis Lucas during the spring and he was excited to compete for a crack at getting in the rotation. Said he had learned a lot about playing offensive line during his redshirt season and was ready to put his hard work on display. He continues to develop and should be in the mix for depth purposes, but with four years ahead of him Lucas still has plenty of opportunities. Kindler, a redshirt junior, also will add depth at the tackle spot and played primarily on special teams a season ago. It's unclear if he will be able to challenge for a starting role but he will have the chance to make some headway this fall.
How many scholarships do we have to offer for the 2013 class?
It's hard to tell when there are so many variables involved with the scholarship numbers but it appears WVU has 18-19 scholarship athletes graduating this year. My rough estimate is 3-4 scholarship spots are open depending on what happens with those still not accounted for in the 2012 class. That's a little over 20. With the possibility of players leaving early or attrition you'd have to believe that another class around 25 would be about right. Expect a full class, along with a similar early enrollee haul as last season. At this point McKeesport (Pa.) linebacker Hodari Christian and Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy wide receiver Daikiel Shorts both plan on enrolling early out of the current commitments. While a pair of 2012 signees from Maryland in wide receiver Deontay McManus and linebacker Sam Lebbie have indicated that they also plan to enroll in January after prepping for a semester at Atlanta Sports Academy.
With all of the hype that Tavon and Steadman are receiving, what's the word on Sticks?
While a majority of the hype this offseason has been squarely on the shoulders of Austin and Bailey, I would not count Ivan McCartney out of the spotlight just yet. Following an injury-plagued end to last season, in which McCartney only notched 130 yards receiving and no touchdowns in the last seven games, it's easy to forget that in the six games before his injury the junior had recorded two 100-yard games with 34 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns.
McCartney will also be behind the 8-ball entering fall camp due to a nagging hamstring injury that prevented him from participating in much of spring ball. The impact of this showed when Coach Holgorsen released his post-spring depth chart with Ryan Nehlen in the outside receiver starting slot over McCartney.
It appears that McCartney will be 100 percent entering the fall camp, which is great for a guy on his talent level. I've said many times that McCartney is almost at the same level as Bailey talent-wise, and the coaches have said the same. If he can show mental toughness, putting the struggles of late last season behind, and show a strong work ethic on the field during camp, McCartney has the potential to add his name to the Austin and Bailey's in the national conscience.
In past years, we've always had a big time play maker......That being said, who will our next playmaker be after Tavon Austin in your opinion?
If the spring is any indication, true freshman receiver Jordan Thompson could be the next generation of speedy playmakers for the Mountaineers. I know it has almost been driven into the ground this offseason, but Thompson appears to be the consensus choice for a future breakout star.
Of course, until we see the young speedster in an actual game it is hard to tell how much of the hype he will live up to, but looking beyond the 2012 season Thompson is already building the foundation for a successful career in Morgantown. Aside from Thompson, many of the younger wide receivers will have their crack as well as mentioned above many of them have already been turning heads.
Is Holgorsen serious that he will not recruit any Penn State players, and are there any grumblings of any of those players actually being interested in transferring to WVU?
Holgorsen's comments were more meant towards transfers in general not necessarily any of the Penn State players. The coaches would prefer to fill spots with freshmen players instead of just taking transfer players just to take them. But if there is an immediate need that can be addressed through a potential transfer such as was the case last season with inside wide receiver Devon Brown, coming over from Wake Forest, they would undoubtedly be a welcomed addition to the team. At this point there has been no concrete information on potential Penn State transfers, but it will be a situation that we'll continue to monitor.
It seems we are continuing our trend of not recruiting enough O and D linemen, at least at this juncture. Will this be changing in the near future, especially with D linemen?
I think last year's class was a direct indication that the current coaching staff is attempting to add more quality depth and increase the numbers in the trenches on both sides of the ball. During last cycle there were four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen in the class, and already two offensive linemen are on board this year with Bloomfield (N.J.) offensive tackle Marcell Lazard and Houston (Tx.) Klein Collins offensive center Tyler Tezeno. I believe you'll see at least one more offensive lineman in this class, if not more, and while the commitments have yet to roll in on the defensive line that isn't an indication that players aren't being targeted or recruited by the staff. Remember that recruiting is always a two-way street. However, by the time this class wraps up I expect you will see numbers around what was taken last year which also will include BUCK linebackers which are the hybrid position that can drop down to the defensive line to create an event front.