West Virginia Football Recruiting: Grading the Mountaineers' 2013 Class
It's all smiles in Morgantown after one of the most successful national signing day hauls in recent West Virginia football recruiting history, as head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Mountaineers were able to address a number of needs and bring in a talented new crop of student-athletes to WVU as a part of their 2013 class.
The Mountaineers didn't suffer from any last-minute flips on Wednesday and even turned over a few surprises of their own, including taking a pair of coveted JUCO recruits from Arizona.
There's no doubt that West Virginia will miss its stars like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but with the recent additions, Mountaineer Nation has been filled with new hope.
Let's take an in-depth look at WVU's 2013 recruiting class in our position-by-position grading breakdown:
Note: All player profiles were obtained from 247Sports.com and rankings are based on 247Sports.com's composite ratings unless otherwise noted.
Chavas Rawlins | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
Chavas Rawlins—a composite 3-star prospect—committed to West Virginia all the way back in May.
The mobile quarterback doesn't quite fit the tradition mold of pro-style quarterbacks that have been utilized in Dana Holgorsen's air-raid offense.
Nonetheless, the Monessen, Pa., native is already enrolled at WVU and looking to establish himself in the battle for the starting quarterback opening in Morgantown.
Long after his commitment, West Virginia recruited JUCO prospect Tanner McEvoy and Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, though the Mountaineers ended up missing out on both. McEvoy signed with Wisconsin and Brissett ended up at North Carolina State (via The Palm Beach Post).
Back to Rawlins, it remains to be seen if he'll even stay at quarterback, or if his athleticism will be used elsewhere.
However, if he does indeed stay under center, he could add whole new dimension to Holgorsen's attack with his legs.
For now, the jury is still out on Rawlins, and it may be for a while.
Running Back: B+
Dreamius Smith | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
West Virginia hit a home run at the running back position bringing in Dreamius Smith, the nation's No. 2 JUCO running back, according to 247Sports.com.
Smith is already enrolled in classes in Morgantown and working his way toward securing a starting position in the WVU backfield.
Theoretically, Smith will slide right into the void left by Shawne Alston, and act as West Virginia's power presence in the backfield. Smith has some speed to burn as well, and he could blossom into a serious weapon for the Mountaineers.
Joining him as an early enrollee is a balanced 3-star back out of Bear, Del., Wendell Smallwood.
Another pair of backs could be joining the fold as well in DeShawn Coleman and Jacky Marcellus. Both are fully committed to WVU but have work left to do in order to qualify (via Mike Casazza, Charleston Daily Mail).
Any one of three scenarios could play out with these two (along with cornerback commit Marquion Lane).
The first, they could take care of their business and make it to Morgantown without issue, which is certainly the best-case scenario.
Or they could fall off the face of the earth.
Rounding out the running back group is a prospect with no known issues, Elijah Wellman. Wellman is an in-state fullback prospect who should do well filling a positional void left by a pair of departures at the position.
Now, Coleman and Marcellus aren't going to necessarily make or break this group of backs, but they do stand to add a lot and drastically lower the need for runners in next year's class.
Wide Receiver: A
Shelton Gibson | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
After losing its three top receivers from 2012 and arguably the two best receivers in school history, West Virginia cleaned up on the outside on signing day.
The headliner of this group may also be the crown jewel of this entire class—Shelton Gibson.
Gibson wears No. 1 like WVU star Tavon Austin, but has a skill set that more closely resembles that at Stedman Bailey. Regardless, Gibson has a great shot at taking on a starting role early in his tenure in Morgantown, especially given how wide open the receiver position is for the Mountaineers at the moment.
If Gibson is the biggest haul of this entire class, then Mario Alford is undoubtedly the biggest new addition of signing day for the Mountaineers. Alford was brought over by new safeties coach Tony Gibson when he made the transition from Arizona to WVU.
Alford is extremely versatile and will be utilized in a fashion similar to Austin, taking the ball in space off screens, sweeps and short passing routes. He'll also likely figure heavily into the return game.
On signing day, Holgorsen called the 6'4", 210-pound White a "grown man" (via Chris Anderson, 247Sports.com). If my translation from coachspeak is correct, White has what it takes physically to secure a starting role in 2013.
Rounding out this wide receiver class is another JUCO transfer, Ronald Carswell, who could also find a place in the receiver rotation next season.
Offensive Line: B
Marcell Lazard | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
No recruiting class is complete without additions to the offensive line, and West Virginia was able to add four solid prospects up front.
Tyler Tezeno—an offensive guard out of Spring, Texas—may be the highlight the group, selecting the Mountaineers over offers from Arizona State, LSU, Boise State and others.
Moving out to tackle, Marcell Lazard has perhaps an even more impressive offer list.
The Bloomfield, N.J., native fielded offers from Florida, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State and many others before tabbing WVU. At 6'6", 293 pounds, he already has the size to make an early impact.
Perhaps with the best shot at playing early is JUCO center Stone Underwood. Aside from already having arguably the best name of any lineman in the NCAA, he could have a clear route at taking on the center role left open by the departure of longtime starter in the middle, Joe Madsen.
Rounding out WVU's offensive line group is a former Miami (Ohio) commit Grant Lingafelter, who turned down offers from the RedHawks along with Illinois and Cincinnati.
Defensive Line: B-
Dontrill Hyman | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
West Virginia's 2013 defensive line group took a big hit with the decommitment of defensive tackle De'Asian Richardson.
Despite that loss, the Mountaineers were still able to bring in a pair of talented defensive ends.
The biggest of the two was JUCO transfer Dontrill Hyman, a prospect the WVU coaching staff is very excited about. On national signing day, defensive line coach Erik Slaughter (via Allan Taylor, WV Metro News) called Hyman "a beast," and added that, "people thought he was my dad when he came in here on his visit. He's a full-grown man."
With an open slot left by Jorge Wright's departure, the full-grown Hyman may have the upper hand at making WVU's starting three on the front line of its defense.
The second DL commit for WVU is Marvin Gross, an under-the-radar rushing end from Dunbar High School in Baltimore, home of Tavon Austin.
Gross didn't have the most impressive offer list, but his numbers were ridiculous. He amassed an incredible 52 sacks in just two seasons at Dunbar. No, that isn't a typo. Two years, 52 sacks.
West Virginia could certainly use that kind of pass rush, as it failed to consistently generate pressure in 2012, which just added to the struggles of the secondary.
The only thing missing from this group is a presence in the middle.
However, with Christian Brown in the fold from last year's class, it isn't the end of the world for the Mountaineers.
Brandon Golson | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
It may be a straight push between receiver and linebacker for the best unit in this 2013 class.
Like at receiver, WVU was able to add both quality and quantity for this class, as well as a few players who could make an early impact.
With West Virginia running the linebacker-centric 3-4 defense, depth is absolutely vital in the middle.
The Mountaineers met that need with five recruits. The hardest part is deciding which one has the most potential.
Hodari Christian is the smallest of the bunch, but he is already enrolled at WVU, giving him a bit of a jump on the others.
The two with the highest ceiling are the two high schoolers who aren't early enrollees—Darrien Howard and Al-Rasheed Benton. Both are were very highly touted recruits and, while they may not start immediately, they could grow into a dangerous tandem at the position.
Finally, two JUCO transfers round out the group and could figure into the linebacker rotation early in their careers. d'Vante Henry and Brandon Golson both had some impressive offers and have the talent to claim a starting role next season.
The determining factor will be how quickly they catch on to the scheme from a mental standpoint, but with two open slots from last year's linebacker group, the situation may be up in the air right up until Aug. 31.
Not only that, but it will likely even change as the season goes on, which really opens the door for all five of these prospects to grab some playing time.
Defensive Back: B
Malik Greaves | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
West Virginia was able to add both great depth and talent at the safety position, while the cornerback position is still up in the air.
Even if Lane does make it to Morgantown, some still might think that one CB recruit isn't even enough. However, WVU already has a load of young corners (six that were just freshmen last season), leaving little room for addition at the position.
WVU was, however, able at the safety position.
Malik Greaves could prove to be the biggest addition, as he is arguably the most talented of the bunch. On top of that, he's already enrolled in Morgantown. With that advantage, he could even challenge for Darwin Cook's starting role, as Cook is coming off an underwhelming junior season.
Mario Alford | Photo Credit: 247 Sports
It is often said that coaches are always happy with their classes on signing day—or at least that's what they project publicly.
Well, the WVU coaching staff can truly sit back after national signing day and be happy with the work it has done.
The Mountaineers addressed numerous needs and brought in some exciting prospects that have the potential to be stars at the next level.
West Virginia missed on a few recruits that it would have liked to add, but as Holgorsen said on signing day, WVU added a group of recruits that want to be in Morgantown (via Brian Kuppelweiser of WVUSports.com):
There is only so much time you can spend with them. You do your best. The biggest thing is getting guys that want to be here. You can’t obsess over why a kid picks another place. When you get them, you have to get them better. You make sure the parents feel good about the relationship. This staff has done a great job of that. We have identified who wants to be here. Guys that signed today are guys that want to be here. We are going to coach the heck out of them. There is all kind of reasons guys don’t go to specific schools.
West Virginia's official class can be seen here in the school's official release complete with individual player bios.