West Virginia and Florida have little in common. OK, so most of us already knew that.
The two states, as dissimilar as they may be, are bound tightly by a football pipeline which has been surging for well over a decade now. Today, the Mountaineers proved once again that their recruit express lane to the Sunshine State is working just fine by signing 11 new Florida natives in the 2012 recruiting class.
If you look at West Virginia's ranking in the current Big East recruiting picture, it currently places fifth in the conference. If you're inclined to take things at face value, then this won't blow your socks off. West Virginia, though, has a habit of developing talent.
Ask former Mountaineer great and current Chicago Bear linebacker J.T. Thomas if his 2-star ranking coming out of Florida hindered his ability to become a great player.
Here's the thing, folks: 5-star guys are great, obviously, but there is far more involved in a young player's progression at the college level than just his 40-yard dash time. "Heart" is one of the more proverbial terms in all of sports, but that doesn't make it any less true nor less necessary for a player to possess.
That said, six of WVU's current 11 Florida recruits are 3-star prospects. WR Devonte Mathis (Miami/Miramar HS) is a tall, rangy receiver who is yet another great prospect out of Miramar High who played multiple positions during his time under coach Damon Cogdell.
Karl Joseph (Orlando/Edgewater HS) projects strongly as a safety and was one of the top defensive players in the state this past year.
Travares Copeland (Port St. Lucie/Treasure Coast HS) is a quarterback that will make the jump to wide receiver in Dana Holgorsen's offense. Copeland is a six-footer with good speed and amazing agility who will make a great addition to West Virginia's fleet of receivers.
There is even a pair of running backs in Roshard Burney (Palm Beach Gardens/ Palm Beach Gardens High) and Torry Clayton (Homestead/South Dade Senior High) are both solid, well-built backs who fit more of the Shawne Alston mold as runners and will provide tempo for this high-flying offense.
Lastly, There's Imarjaye Albury (Miami/Miami Northwestern High) who, at 6'0" and 280 pounds, is a little shorter than the ideal defensive tackle, but he has good strength and causes a lot of trouble around the line of scrimmage. In the new 3-4 scheme, Albury will be a good run-stopping presence inside.
I'm not trying to sell anybody on the notion that the Mountaineers' recruiting class is historic in any sense. There is certainly a lot left to accomplish on the recruiting trail and I'm sure Dana Holgorsen and his staff are keeping that in mind.
However, there are two important things to note.
Firstly, it's about what the coaching staff does with these kids once they have them. Everyone and their grandmother's uncles's poker buddy knows Holgorsen can coach offense and the staff he has put in place is more than capable of helping him do so.
The defensive staff is still being pieced together, but knowing that the scheme will be a pro set and that there will be guys with NFL experience helping implement it makes it even better.
As Mountaineer fans, we want the world, or rather, a national championship. While we didn't bring in Gunner Kiel (and honestly I'm kind of happy we didn't), we may well have some true diamonds in the rough heading to Morgantown.
Second, the Florida pipeline is still alive. This is huge and was a huge question mark once Holgorsen took over the program. One still expects a surge of recruits coming in from parts farther west and southwest, but Florida is arguably the biggest talent factory in the country and the fact that West Virginia still has a flag firmly planted there says a lot about this program's ability to reload.
Recruiting will get better and gradually shift its focus to different places on the map. One thing's for sure, though: The powers that be in Morgantown will always find talent where we least expect them to.
Usually, it's somewhere down in Florida.
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