West Virginia captures solid class despite unusual coaching situation

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With the unique arrangement in the West Virginia football hierarchy, and the fact that most freshmen don't make a deep impact, Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart was in an unusual place on Wednesday, the first day high school football players could sign a binding letter of intent with a college.

Of the 17 players who sent a binding national letter of intent to Stewart Wednesday, few will have great influence on the program while he's the head coach.

Instead, this group of players will transition into pivotal roles just as current offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen will transition into the top man in Morgantown. Holgorsen will be elevated to head coach for the 2012 season.

Still, even with that hovering over a program coming off its third consecutive nine-win season, the Mountaineers (and Stewart) reeled in a solid recruiting class with nine offensive players and eight defensive players.

The gem of the class, according to recruiting rankings, was Andrew Buie, a 5-foot-9, 191-pound running back from Jacksonville, Fla. who was complemented by another running back recruit, Dustin Garrison, a Texas native.

"The two running backs, we are happy with," Holgorsen said. "We watched tape and they were productive. We went hard after them and we got these two that we were after."

Those two backs and two receivers from Florida -- Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers -- should bolster Holgorsen's offensive attack, which is more open than the one employed by West Virginia in the past few seasons.

Also Wednesday, West Virginia picked up a signing that it didn't anticipate, but lost a player it had counted on.

Marquis Lucas, a 6-4, 310-pound offensive lineman from Miami, had made a verbal commitment to Rutgers, but signed with the Mountaineers instead.

Lucas was the positive surprise, while Jermichael Selders, a running back from Houston, backtracked on a commitment he made in August with West Virginia and signed with Baylor. But the pervading thought is the signings of Buie and Garrison will offset the loss of Selders.

On defense, the most highly rated prospect the Mountaineers landed was Pottstown cornerback Terrell Chestnut, who in July made a commitment to Pitt, but reversed fields when coach Dave Wannstedt was forced to resign. Chestnut led a strong group of defensive signees that included three linemen and three linebackers.

The Mountaineers picked up one recruit from Western Pennsylvania -- Bethel Park defensive back Nick Kwiatkoski, who has an aim on helping in defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's intricate 3-3-5 system that finished the past season in the top 10 in numerous Division I-A categories.

Kwiatkoski, at 6-2, 210 pounds, is penciled in as a "bandit" safety at West Virginia, the truer of the safety positions, not the hybrid-linebacker type position that Casteel also employs.

But Kwiatkoski could grow into a player who shifts positions and moves into a strong safety role.

"I feel like I could play either [position] and this is a diverse opportunity on a great defense," Kwiatkoski said. "It is such a hard defense to run against and such a hard defense to pass against and you have to think out there when you play in it. I just want to be a part of it and I know they will find the right place for me."

In addition to the players who signed Wednesday, West Virginia had six players who graduated early from high school and already are enrolled for the spring semester. That list includes two quarterbacks: Brian Athey of Minnesota and Texan Paul Millard.


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com


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