West Virginia Football: All-Time Best Recruit at Each Position
Every college football program has a list of infamous recruits who were billed as superstars that would change the future of their teams—and West Virginia is no different.
Some of these recruits live up to that billing, others end up as busts, while some don't even make it to campus.
We're going to take a look at some of the most hyped Mountaineer recruits ever.
The criteria for this list is almost entirely based off of recruiting hype from the media and recruiting websites—not necessarily the player's on-field performance in college.
As a result, all of the recruits on this list come from the last decade or so. If you have any other names you feel were left off this list—particularly from before the Rivals/Scout/247 era, feel free to share them in the comment section below.
QB: Tajh Boyd
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Rivals.com: 4-star | No. 4 QB
Honorable Mention: Geno Smith
Tajh Boyd committed to West Virginia very early on in the recruiting process, and as one of the nation's best quarterback prospects, immediately began to attract other top recruits as well.
WVU was off to one of its best starts on the trail with Boyd and several of his Phoebus High School (Va.) teammates in the fold.
However, once the season started and the Mountaineer offense began to struggle, Boyd decommitted.
He eventually committed to Clemson, where he has had a successful career so far, as he now enters his senior campaign.
West Virginia ended up taking a commitment from Geno Smith, who ended up re-writing all of the school's passing records.
If Smith hadn't been so successful, we might be looking back and thinking, "What if Boyd stuck with WVU?"
However, even after the incredible hoopla surrounding his commitment and decommitment, Boyd is almost an afterthought thanks to Smith.
RB: Jason Gwaltney
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Rivals.com: 5-star | No. 3 RB | No. 15 Overall
Honorable Mention: Noel Devine
Jason Gwaltney committed to West Virginia over Ohio State, USC and others, becoming arguably WVU's best recruiting pull of all time in the process—and he promised to live up to every bit of that hype (via Scout.com):
I expect to start game one. That’s no knock to the other backs there, I just feel that I’m going to work that much harder. My goals, I want to be over 1,500 yards my freshman season. I feel the coaches are going to put me in the position to do that.
After a solid start to his career, a knee injury midway through his freshman campaign served as a turning point, not only in his football career, but in his life path.
Gwaltney ended up leaving WVU and eventually making it back to the collegiate level at Division III Kean University.
The Long Island native was expected to make headlines at West Virginia for his ability as a running back, but recently, he made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In January 2013, he allegedly took part in an armed home invasion and robbery in Huntington, N.Y. (via New York Post).
This incident marked an unimaginable fall of a WVU recruit who had Heisman Trophy and NFL aspirations.
WR: Logan Heastie and Deon Long
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Heastie: 247 Sports Composite: 4-star | No. 22 WR | 92 Overall
Long: 247 Sports Composite: 4-star | No. 29 WR | 90 Overall (Eventual NJCAA All-American)
Logan Heastie committed early on in 2009 recruiting season along with Boyd. However, unlike Boyd, Heastie stuck with his commitment and made it to WVU.
He even enrolled early and seemed destined to be the next star wide receiver in Morgantown—but he didn't last long. Even before the beginning of summer practice, Heastie was off the team.
At the same time of his departure, the Mountaineers lost another top-flight WR, Deon Long. While Heastie fell into obscurity, Long cycled back through the system making stops at New Mexico, then Iowa Western Community College, before landing again at Maryland.
At Iowa Western, Long was named a junior college All-American and became one of the nation's top JUCO prospects.
However, recently, Long was suspended at UMD for violating university policy (Via Alex Prewitt, Washington Post).
Regardless, Long is still expected to make a major on-field impact this fall in College Park.
Now thinking of what could have been, just imagine Long, Heastie, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey on the outside for WVU.
OL: Josh Jenkins
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Scout.com: 5-star | No. 1 OG
Rated by Scout.com as the best offensive guard in the nation, Josh Jenkins came to West Virginia as the crown jewel of the class of 2008.
When the Parkersburg, W.Va. native chose to stay in-state and attend WVU over an impressive list of suitors including Ohio State, Florida State and Penn State, it was a not only a great story, but a great haul for the Mountaineers.
However, recurring knee injuries slowed his progress and even forced him to redshirt during his true senior year.
In the end, the injuries never really allowed Jenkins to live up to his full potential.
Jenkins went undrafted in 2013 but did sign a free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks (via WVUSports.com).
DL: Tevita Finau
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Rivals.com: 4-star | No. 4 JUCO DE | No. 8 Overall JUCO Prospect
Tevita Finau. Bigfoot. Mothman.
In Morgantown, tall tales are told about all three of these figures.
Finau was one of the most hyped JUCO recruits WVU has ever pulled in—except the Mountaineers never actually pulled him in.
After signing a letter of intent in 2008 with West Virginia over Auburn, Florida, Oklahoma, Tennessee, USC and others, he never made it to campus.
Two years and two more letters of intent later, Mountaineer fans still thought they would see Finau in gold and blue.
Eventually, the stud defensive lineman landed at Utah and had a solid senior season in 2011-12, tallying 37 tackles and three sacks.
Currently, he is on the New York Jets roster along with WVU quarterback Geno Smith.
LB: Pat Lazear
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Rivals.com: 4-star | No. 10 ILB | No. 3 Prospect in Maryland
Pat Lazear was one of the best linebacker prospects in the nation coming out of high school, but an off-field incident caused many schools to shy away from him.
He was involved in a stickup of a Smoothie King in Bethesda, Md.—acting as a wheelman for his group of friends as they took the smoothie shop for $463 (via Alicia Shepard, Washingtonian).
Still, he boasted scholarship offers from Alabama and Ohio State but chose WVU.
After arriving in Morgantown, Lazear had a solid career for the Mountaineers that was devoid of off-field issues and included his being named to the Big East Conference academic All-Star team.
DB: Michael Carter
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Rivals.com: 4-star | No. 12 CB | No. 140 Overall
Michael Carter committed to West Virginia at the Army All-American bowl over in-state options Florida and Miami, as well as Georgia, Minnesota and others—giving the Mountaineers one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.
However, on signing day, Carter flipped to the Gophers, where his cousin—pro defensive back Tyrone Carter—was a two-time All-American.
He ended up having a decent career at Minnesota, which culminated with a team-high four interceptions in his senior season.
He went undrafted in 2013 but, according to the StarTribune, is headed to the nearby Minnesota Vikings—the same team that drafted his cousin in 2000.
Looking back, his late decommitment hurts even more, given WVU's struggles at the cornerback position in 2012.