MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen leaned heavily on physical maturity for his second recruiting class Wednesday, signing nine junior-college players who are expected to provide immediate help.
The Mountaineers got a national letter of intent from 25 in all, including athletes from 15 states, and several high-end prospects.
Those top-end players included Shelton Gibson, the nation's No. 26 ranked receiver who created some mild drama by becoming the final commitment of the day to roll in, and receiver Mario Alford, the nation's top-ranked junior-college player.
Seven players had enrolled in January, leaving 18 new signatures to roll off the fax machine Wednesday.
"It's good to put closure to it. The hardest 48 hours as a coach is Monday, Tuesday before signing day," said Holgorsen, buttoned into a suit and tie behind a podium in the Milan Puskar Center team room dotted with his staff. "There's nothing you can do. It's over. You don't know if they're going to send it back or not? We did a heck of a job. I think this staff did a heck of a job. We put a list together last night of 18 people. And all 18 signed."
The biggest surprise was the fruits of new safeties coach Tony Gibson's labor.
Gibson, who is a former member of the Mountaineers staff, left Arizona recently to return to Morgantown and snagged two highly rated junior-college prospects that originally had committed to the Wildcats -- Alford, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound receiver, and Brandon Golson, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker, both from Georgia Military College.
Alford is reputed to have incredible speed and Golson is a strong pass rusher.
"I had those guys committed to another school and left and came here. We tried to sell them West Virginia," Gibson said. "You go all in and try to get them. ... They loved it when they were up here on a visit. They liked the guys who are going to be coaching them, liked the schemes, the facilities, all those things."
On defense there was a clear emphasis on pass rushers in the group, and a distinct upgrade in size among the defensive prospects.
"There is no doubt it was definitely an area of trying to identify people who can run, impact the quarterback and make plays in space," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said.
Offensively the team returns little proven talent at receiver with the graduation of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, setting a strong need to find playmakers.
"When you lose Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods, you better go out and add some guys that have that ability," Holgorsen said.
He added Kevin White, 6-4, 210 pounds, Daikiel Shorts (6-1, 200), Ronald Carswell (6-0, 180), Alford, and Gibson (6-1, 175) at receiver -- all players he said "that have that quick twitch ability."
Gibson, who is reputed to be a special player with excellent speed and explosive playmaking ability, was largely recruited by offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh with help from offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and Holgorsen.
He had offers from 18 schools, including Ohio State and multiple Southeastern Conference programs.
"His mom came down here. The thing she told me, and this is a huge deal, that when she drove into Morgantown she knew this was the place," Bedenbaugh said. "That's the thing about recruiting. She said 'I drove up there and felt it was the place.' "
Holgorsen said Gibson is extremely talented and hard to tackle, and anchors a group of receivers that will be able to make plays in the open field.
Holgorsen said there are still a handful of spots left in this class, and the staff is actively pursuing several players.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1959 and Twitter: @JennMenendez.