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WVU finding fits on defense, still work left to be done

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Tony Gibson has been around recruiting for quite some time.

So it’s noteworthy when he offers compliments to a class in the way he did the first group of 2018 signees that inked with the Mountaineers earlier this week.

“This is probably collectively as a group the best looking class I’ve been around,” he said.

For an assistant that’s career has included previous stops at Michigan, Pittsburgh and Arizona as well as two-successful stints in Morgantown that’s saying something.

On the recruiting trail, the Mountaineers placed an emphasis on length and size across the board on the defensive side.

Take one look at the names that fill out that side of the ball and it’s pretty obvious to see. Dante Stills is the smallest defensive lineman tipping the scales at 285-pounds, while in the secondary the Mountaineers secured players that had both size and length.

Kwantel Raines, a projected SPUR in the West Virginia defense, stands 6-foot-3 and after seeing him in person certainly looks the part.

But you don’t win football games by looking the part. Now comes the work.

“Hopefully they can come to play,” Gibson said.

With one of the first objectives as an assistant out of the way when it comes to identifying and recruiting top end talent, the next comes into play in developing those players. Several will be on campus in January to start their careers giving them a chance to get a head start. Those names include linebacker Josh Chandler, linebacker Charlie Benton, safety Josh Norwood and cornerback Keith Washington.

Recruiting and development.

“If you do those two things you’ll be O.K.,” Gibson said.

As for the players West Virginia targeted, it sounds cliché but the program does not worry about what other schools get involved or how players are perceived by recruiting services. It simply comes down to how the coaches value the team and if they can fit into what the Mountaineers do.

Gibson points out a previous example of Dan Mozes, who was recruited by West Virginia and Wake Forest during his first tenure with the program but won the Rimington Award as the nation’s best center. The assistant was the lead in that pursuit.

“How many guys you think wish they had him five years later?” Gibson asked.

But even with the thoughts of Gibson on the current defensive pieces to this class the work is still not done as West Virginia still has around three open spots. One of those will likely go to a defensive lineman after Alex Williams flipped to Ohio State with the other two cornerbacks.

You could see the coaches scour all levels of football to fill those spots, but like the rest of the class the focus is on finding those players that have size and length. And ultimately it has to be a fit.

The work will now shift to January and beyond with the rest of the class locked up to fill it. The Mountaineers have already extended one new cornerback offer, while you can expect them to search the transfer wire as well.

“We’re not going to fill a spot to fill a spot. We have certain things we’re looking for right now, we’re going to hit it,” Gibson said.

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