Mountaineers big in Florida
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There is a bit of uncertainty around the West Virginia football program these days.
Lawsuits that will determine the Mountaineers' football conference for the upcoming season have yet to be resolved, and longtime defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel left the program last month to take the same job at Arizona under former boss Rich Rodriguez.
But an aspect of the Mountaineers' football future became more certain Wednesday as 26 student-athletes signed letters of intent.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy with what we got," coach Dana Holgorsen said.
The key to the 2012 recruiting class is balance. Holgorsen said the Mountaineers did not have any overwhelming needs at any position.
Of the 26 players in the class, 14 are offensive players, including a quarterback, two running backs, four linemen, six receivers and a tight end.
"There's a little bit of everything, which is kind of what we're after," Holgorsen said.
The Mountaineers signed more players from Florida -- 11 -- than any other state, and Holgorsen speculated the Mountaineers might have gotten a boost from a 70-33 victory against Clemson last month at the Orange Bowl in Miami.
"It created a lot of excitement down there," he said, "A lot of those kids went to the game. That's as many as we've ever got out of Florida."
Receivers coach Shannon Dawson agreed but said while the victory helped, the coaching staff still had to sell those recruits on West Virginia.
"I don't know how much it helps when it gets down to the end and it gets down to the end and the kid makes their decision," Dawson said. "Sometimes, kids are going to make decisions based on emotions at the end. But it at least piques interest. ... When you get them here, then you've got to close them and sell them."
The class also includes four players from Texas, and Holgorsen said the staff will continue to recruit that state, especially with the Mountaineers poised to move to the Big 12.
"I think everybody's excited about going to the Big 12 at some point here," he said. "We're all anxiously awaiting the [court] decisions."
The Mountaineers did not sign any players from West Virginia, though Holgorsen said the staff is committed to recruiting in West Virginia and surrounding states. Four signees are from Ohio, two from Maryland, one from Washington, D.C., and one from Pennsylvania.
"We have made a conscious effort to make sure that we continue to take care of what's made West Virginia good for quite a while," he said.
With the departure of Casteel, Holgorsen said the Mountaineers will change their defensive scheme from a "stack" set to a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Joe DeForest, who likely will be the co-defensive coordinator next season, said he and Holgorsen decided to switch the scheme to better address evolving college offenses.
He said the scheme change might have helped the Mountaineers lure versatile defensive recruits -- ones who could line up as defensive linemen or outside linebackers.
"As a recruit, you're probably going, I've got a pretty good chance to play early because it's a new scheme for everybody," he said.
First Published February 2, 2012 12:00 am