football

West Virginia starting to develop Texas pipeline

Garretthope (2) 200 6 13
WhileplayinglinebackeratTheWoodlands(Texas)High,GarrettHopeoftenwonderedaboutthepossibilityofcontinuinghisfootballcareerataBig12school.
HowcouldhehaveguessedacoupleofyearsagothathecouldreachthatgoalbyleavingfortheEastCoast?
Hopedidn'treceivemuchinterestfromBig12schoolsinTexasorneighboringstates,buthedidgetanofferfromWestVirginia,whichismovingfromtheBigEasttotheBig12thisfall.HopejumpedontheopportunityandbecameoneoffiveTexashighschoolstosignwiththeMountaineersthisyear.
"It'salwaysbeenmydreamtoplayintheBig12,"HopetoldWVSports.comaftercommitting.
PlentyofTexaskidsgrowupdreamingtoplayintheBig12.NotallofthemcanendupatTexasorOklahoma.WestVirginiacoachDanaHolgorseniseagertomakesomeoftheirdreamscometrue.
WestVirginia'sfiveTexassigneesin2012exceededitscombinedtotalfromthepreviousnineyears.WestVirginiadidn'tsignasingleplayerdirectlyfromaTexasschoolbetween2003and2009.
ThemovetotheBig12isthemostobviousreasonfortheshift.NowthatWestVirginiawillbeplayingafewgamesinthestatesofTexasandOklahomaeachyear,movingallthewaytoMorgantownforfouryearsdoesn'tseemlikesuchadauntingpropositiontoarecruitfromtheSouthwest.
Butthatisn'tnecessarilythebiggestreason.
TexashighschoolcoachessaidWestVirginia'snewemphasisonthestatecoincidedwithHolgorsen'sarrival.HolgorsenworkedasanoffensivecoordinatoratTexasTech,HoustonandOklahomaStatebeforecomingtoWestVirginia.
"They'remakingabigeffortwithCoachHolgorsen,"KatyHighcoachGaryJosephsaid."HecoachedatTech.HecoachedatHouston.It'snotlikehedoesn'tknowthearea.They'retryingtomakemoreinroadshere."
AndwhatwasitlikebeforeHolgorsengotthere?
"Ireallyhadverylittletoanycontactwiththem,"Josephsaid.
Joseph'sschoolproducedwidereceiverJordanThompson,a2012earlyenrolleewhocaughteightpassesfor66yardsandatouchdowninWestVirginia'sspringgame.OtherTexasrecruitstosignwithWestVirginiathisyearincludedHope,HoustonKinkaidquarterbackFordChildress,GarlandHighkickerJoshLambertandWylieHighdefensiveendNobleNwachukwu.Childress,anearlyenrollee,wasarrestedonaDUIchargeApril19anddidn'tplayinWestVirginia'sspringgame.
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ThatclassreflectsarenewedefforttoexpandWestVirginia'srecruitingbase.
WestVirginianeedscreativityinitsrecruitingapproachbecauseitshomestatedoesn'tproducemanytopprospects.OnlyfivepercentoftheMountaineers'recruitsoverthelastfiveyearshavecomefromWestVirginia.Wyomingandin-staterivalMarshallaretheonlyFBSprogramstosignasmallerpercentageofin-stateprospectsduringthatstretch.
Traditionally,WestVirginiahascompensatedbyrelyingheavilyonnearbystatesOhio,Pennsylvania,VirginiaandMarylandaswellasestablishingapipelinetoFlorida.ThereigningOrangeBowlchampionshaven'tchangedthatstrategy.Infact,WestVirginia'sfocusonFloridawasmoreapparentthaneverthisyear.
ButpopulationshiftsawayfromRustBeltandtowardtheSunBelthavemadetheMountaineerslookmoretotheSouth.NowthatWestVirginia'sintheBig12,Texasisanaturalpossibility.
"We'regoingtostillrecruitwherewe'vebeenrecruiting,whichisthesurroundingstatesofWestVirginiaandFlorida,"Holgorsensaid."Ithinkwetook12outofFloridathisyear.ButwewillgetintoTexas.''
Holgorsen'sstaffisequippedtodothat.NearlyallofthemhavecoachedinthestateofTexasoratotherschoolsintheSouthwest.
"Theyknowwhichschools[inTexas]togoto,thequestionstoask,"WyliecoachBillHowardsaid."It'sabigplus.I'dhatetocometoTexasandstartrecruitingandnothaveaclueastowhichschoolsyouwanttogoto,whichprogramsyouwanttogoto,whichschoolskeepup.There'savariationinthequalityoftheschoolsinTexas.IfIwenttoWestVirginiaandwasrecruiting,Iwouldn'tbeabletotellyouanything.Havingthatbackgroundishuge.''
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ClickHeretoviewthisLink.WestVirginiaoffensivecoordinatorShannonDawsonClickHeretoviewthisLink.anddefensivelinecoachErikSlaughterClickHeretoviewthisLink.previouslyworkedasassistantsatStephenF.Austin,anFCSprograminNacogdoches,Texas.SlaughteralsoisaformerTexashighschoolcoachwhospentayearasthedefensivecoordinatoratTexasA&M-Commerce.
CornerbackscoachDaronRobertsisaformerUniversityofTexasstudentbodypresidentwhoalsohappenstoownaHarvardlawdegree.OffensivelinecoachBillBedenbaughworkedatTexasTechfrom2000-06.Co-defensivecoordinatorKeithPattersonisaformerTexasandOklahomahighschoolcoachwhospenteightseasonsonTulsa'sstaff.DefensivecoordinatorJoeDeForestandrunningbackscoachRobertGillespiealsohaveBig12connectionsfromworkingalongsideHolgorsenatOklahomaState.
TheTexasconnectionsstartatthetop,asWestVirginiaathleticdirectorOliverLuckplayedfiveyearsfortheNFL'sHoustonOilersandwenttolawschoolattheUniversityofTexas.HolgorsennotedthatLuckwantedtoseeWestVirginiagetmoreactiveinTexas.
"They'vegottieshere,"saidPearlandHighcoachTonyHeath,whoseschoolproducedcurrentWestVirginiarunningbackDustinGarrison."Whenyouhaveties,youhaverelationships.Alotofcoacheshereknowthoseguys,knowwhattheydoandknowwhattheirworkethicis.Theyfeelcomfortableinsendingkids-ifthey'regoingoutofstate-tothatarea.''
Ofcourse,gettingTexaskidstogooutofstateisn'teasy.
The2013classincludes25Texanswhoarerankedamongthenation'stop200players.Eighteenofthemalreadyhaveverballycommitted,andonlytwoofthose18playerschoseout-of-stateschools:CypressRanchrunningbackKeithFordoptedforOklahomaandWichitaFallsriderquarterbackJ.T.BarrettpickedOhioState.
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Thisisn'tanunusualdevelopment.Sixteenofthetop19TexasprospectsintheClassof2012signedwithschoolsintheirhomestate.Thenagain,thisalsoisn'tnecessarilyaproblemforWestVirginia,aschoolthatoftenhitsthejackpotwithsleeperprospects.
WestVirginialikestocapitalizeonthefactthatTexasschoolsliketofillupmostoftheirrecruitingclassesearly.TexasA&Malreadyhaspickedup15commitmentsfortheClassof2013,whileTexashas13commitments.WestVirginia'sonlytwo2013commitmentsthusfararefromHermitage(Pa.)HickoryrunningbackDeShawnColemanandBloomfield(N.J.)offensivetackleMarcellLazard.
"SpringrecruitingobviouslyisprettyimportantinTexas,"Holgorsensaid."Youlookatjuniorsandyouevaluatetheminthespring.Idon'tknowwhattheexactpercentageis,butI'dguessabout75-80percentofrecruitingisdonebasedonjuniors.Ourphilosophyistogivekidstheopportunitytohavegreatsenioryearsandthenevaluatethembasedonwhattheirsenioryearis.''
That'showWestVirginiagotGarrison,wholedtheMountaineersinrushingasatruefreshmanlastseason.Garrisonislistedas5-foot-9and166pounds.Thelackofsizeandsomenagginginjuriesinhisjuniorseasonmadehimalow-profilerecruit.
BythetimeGarrisonrushedfor2,842yardsand46touchdownstoleadPearlandtoastatetitlehissenioryear,manyschoolsdidn'thaveanyroomforhim.WestVirginiahappilysignedthetwo-starrecruit,whorushedfor742yardslastseason.
"Everybodyhadrecruitedtheirrunningbacksalready,andhedidn'thavethemeasurablestobeanearly-offerguy,"Holgorsensaid."Butbasedonhisproductionhissenioryear,itwasano-brainerformetorecruitthatkid."
Thompsonhasasimilarstory.
The5-7receiverdidn'tputupbignumbershisjunioryearbecauseheplayedonateamthatfeaturedcurrentIllinoisrunningbackDonovonnYoungand2013Rivals250prospectAdamTaylorinthebackfield.AfterYoungleftforcollegeandTaylortorehisanteriorcruciateligamentearlylastseason,Katyhadtothrowtheballmoreoften.
Thompsonrespondedbycatching78passesfor1,171yardsand15touchdownshissenioryear.Thetwo-starrecruitsignedwithWestVirginiaandalreadyisofftoafaststartbasedonhisspringperformance.
WestVirginialikelywon'tbebeatingoutTexasorTexasA&Mforin-staterecruitsanytimesoon,buttheMountaineerscanstillutilizetheirLoneStateStateconnectionstofindunder-the-radarprospectsinthisstatewhocanhelpthemcontendforBig12titles.
Sowhilemanyofthein-statepowerscontinuetostockpileverbalcommitmentsfromthemostheraldedrecruitsinTexas,Holgorsenandhisassistantswillstudyfilmofseniorsacrossthestateanddeterminewhichofthemmeritlateoffers.
Maybethey'llfindthenextDustinGarrison.
SteveMegargeeisthenationalcollegecolumnistforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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