West Virginia closes strong on signing day

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When West Virginia receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was hired a year ago, he immediately was dispatched to Baltimore to meet Dunbar High School quarterback William Crest, one of the top dual-threat quarterback recruits in the 2014 recruiting class.

Crest already was close with former Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin, a Dunbar alumnus, and quarterback Geno Smith, but the bond with a primary recruiter is crucial.

"We clicked," Galloway said.

In April, Crest committed to the Mountaineers. Just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, Crest's signed national letter of intent was met with fanfare as it slid out of the fax machine at Puskar Center.

National signing day went off without a hitch for West Virginia, and it included a few pleasant surprises.

With six early enrollees already on campus, the Mountaineers received 15 letters to close the recruiting class with 21 players.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen called it an "exciting" and "successful" day in Morgantown. Holgorsen's fourth class will add much-needed depth and finally bring the Mountaineers back to full strength numbers-wise, he said.

The staff was rewarded with signing-day pledges from offensive lineman Dontae Angus, a former Florida pledge; and running back Donte Thomas-Williams.

Thomas-Williams, a bruising 6-foot, 221-pound back, ran for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior in Durham, N.C. He chose West Virginia over reigning national champion Florida State and Clemson.

Mountaineers running backs coach JaJuan Seider called Thomas-Williams "a guy we just couldn't pass up."

"I learned a long time ago that you never turn down a great player if you've got a chance to get one," Seider said.

He said West Virginia's backfield will be "as NFL-like as you can be," when Rushel Shell and Andrew Buie return from redshirt seasons to join incumbent backups Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood.

Three members of the class are four-star recruits, according to Rivals.com: Thomas-Williams, Crest and cornerback Dravon Henry.

Henry, an Aliquippa native who spurned Pitt to select West Virginia in December, left no doubt as to his intentions. He got the "first-of-the-day award," Holgorsen said, when, at 7:01 a.m., Henry's was the first letter faxed into the football offices.

Holgorsen called Henry "one of the better players in the Northeast" and credited safeties coach Tony Gibson, dubbed "Mr. Pittsburgh," with getting Henry to West Virginia.

"[Henry] can do a lot of things," Holgorsen said. "He can play corner for us, can play safety or nickel for us, can return kicks. We'll be able to use him in the secondary to continue to develop what we feel like is going to be one of the better secondaries in college football."

Henry is one of three WPIAL players headed to Morgantown. Joining him are defensive end Jaleel Fields (Aliquippa) and wide receiver Ricky Rogers (Gateway).

The Mountaineers entered national signing day with 20 pledges and had a relatively calm day. Only one recruit, offensive lineman Jamie Herr, didn't sign, and his spot was filled by Angus.

Having lost three senior starters on the offensive line, West Virginia loaded its recruiting class with five hulking offensive linemen to add depth.

Six members of the class are junior-college transfers, and four already are enrolled.

"Two of the six are three-year guys," Holgorsen said. "And two of the other four have a redshirt year. I'd like to get it to where we don't need to take [them]. In my opinion, the way you get really good is if you get guys in the program for three years or four years or five years."

West Virginia’s 2014 recruiting class:

William Crest, Baltimore (QB, 6-2, 210)

Skyler Howard, Fort Worth, Texas (QB, 6-0, 205)

RB Dontae Thomas-Williams, Durham, N.C. (RB, 6-0, 221)

Jacob McCrary, Miami (WR, 6-0, 182)

Ricky Rogers, Gateway (WR, 6-1, 200)

Lamar Parker, Miami (WR, 5-9, 170)

Dontae Angus, Philadelphia (OL, 6-6, 330)

Amanii Brown, Morgantown, W.Va. (OL, 6-5, 285)

Yodny Cajuste, Hollywood, Fla. (OL, 6-6, 270)

Walter Rauterkus, Avon, Ohio (OL, 6-6, 286)

Justin Scott, Woodland Hills, Calif. (OL, 6-5, 290)

Sylvester Townes, Memphis, Tenn. (OL, 6-6, 285)

Jaleel Fields, Aliquippa (DE, 6-3, 286)

Tyree Owens, Oviedo, Fla. (DL, 6-3, 260)

Edward Muldrow, Snellville, Ga. (LB, 6-3, 215)

Davonte James, Springfield, Ohio (LB, 6-1, 233)

Xavier Preston, Jensen Beach, Fla. (LB, 6-3, 220)

Keishawn Richardson, Putnam City, Okla. (DB, 5-10, 170)

Dravon Henry, Aliquippa (CB, 5-11, 185)

Jaylon Myers, North Augusta, S.C. (CB, 6-2, 195)

Daejuan Funderburk, Washington, D.C. (S, 6-1, 180)

Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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