West Virginia's Fast Start to 2015 Recruiting Class Just What Holgorsen Needs

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2014

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen looks on from the sideline during the third quarter of their NCAA college football game against Iowa State in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. Iowa State won 52-44 in triple- overtime. (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)
Chris Jackson/Associated Press

Every victory counts for West Virginia, a program that hasn't done a lot of winning lately. And right now, the Mountaineers are winning on the recruiting trail. 

According to 247Sports rankings, West Virginia has the No. 5 class in the country for 2015, and the top class in the Big 12. Not Texas, not Oklahoma. 

In all, the 'Eers have nine verbal commitments, including a pair of 4-star prospects: safety Kendrell McFadden and wide receiver Jovon Durante

Of course, national signing day '15 is nearly a full year away. There is more than enough time for pledges to look around and commit elsewhere. Still, it's hard not to be impressed with what head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff are doing in light of the downward trend the program has been on since 2011. 

Holgorsen and Smith
Holgorsen and SmithJ. Meric/Getty Images

West Virginia's biggest problem since joining the Big 12 two years ago has been depth. The starting 22 have been good enough for the most part; putting together a better two-and-three deep is proving to be the problem. 

Another issue has been staff turnover. In two years, Holgorsen has lost or fired nine assistants, the most recent departure being defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. 

As it turns out, though, Holgorsen is reaping the rewards for two recent additions to his staff. 

JC Shurburtt of 247Sports notes in his column for CBSSports that four of West Virginia's nine commitments are from Florida. The two names largely responsible for those commitments are running backs coach JaJuan Seider and defensive line coach Damon Cogdell. 

Both coaches joined the staff within the past year. Seider is a disciple of former WVU assistant and current Marshall coach Doc Holliday, who has a great presence in Florida. Cogdell, a former West Virginia player, was the head coach at Miramar High School—a south Florida pipeline for WVU that has produced signees like former quarterback Geno Smith—before joining Holgorsen's staff in January. 

It's not hard to see the connection. Holgorsen knows exactly what he's doing.

Texas serves as the Big 12's primary recruiting ground. However, the Mountaineers, a geographical outlier, still get a majority of their players from surrounding states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, etc.) and Florida. 

Since the Sunshine State serves as one of the best recruiting grounds anywhere in college football, Holgorsen hired assistants with strong ties to the area. 

Smith with the New York Jets
Smith with the New York JetsSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There are other highlights in the '15 class. Defensive end Stone Wolfley, the No. 1 player in the state and son of former West Virginia offensive lineman Dale Wolfley, gave his verbal last year. 

Still, Florida is the key, and the early feedback indicates the strategy is working. That's good news for Holgorsen, who desperately needs more top-end players. 

Barring a complete disaster, 2014 shouldn't be a make-or-break season for Holgorsen since his buyout would still be $8.6 million. He should have a little more time to get things turned around. 

If the fast start to the 2015 recruiting class is any indication, Holgorsen just may be able to get West Virginia out of its hole. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports


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