MORGANTOWN — With the introduction of an early signing period this year, the WVU football team had a wide variety of players sign, helping ease what can be a stressful month of January leading into the regular signing day, in early February.
The early signing period, which lasts 72 hours from Dec. 20-22, helped the Mountaineers lock up 20 signees Wednesday. Including Miami transfers Jack Allison and Jovani Haskins, as well as Alabama transfer T.J. Simmons, WVU could sign 26 to this year’s class.
With only three spots remaining, the Mountaineers have locked up most of a class that includes almost every position.
“If you look at the ones that are in, there’s a little of everything,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’ve got a quarterback, got a kicker, got defensive linemen, got linebackers, got corners, got offensive linemen, got receivers, got tight ends, and we’re still filling slots.”
With the size of the class, Holgorsen said they need a little bit of everything, which is one reason the early signing period is beneficial to WVU. It gives other programs a month and a half less to try to woo commits away. Some big programs are in limbo with coaching situations, and since the Mountaineers are not, that helped get players to stick around.
“We’re a program with stability right now,” Holgorsen said. “Our coaching staff has done a great job and we know who we are and what we’re looking for, and we went out and identified that. There’s a lot of programs out there that are not very stable, and a lot of good programs that came knocking and looking, and a lot of our guys remained loyal to us.
“That becomes hard if you give them another month and a half.”
Ohio State offered two WVU commits recently, including defensive linemen Alex Williams and tight end Mike O’Laughlin. Williams ended up decommitting and joining the Buckeyes, but O’Laughlin remained with the Mountaineers and signed his Letter-of-Intent (LOI) on Wednesday.
Of the 20 signees, 15 were high school players. In the recent past, junior-college athletes were about half of the signees WVU brought in. Holgorsen believes that the new contract he signed — through 2021 — in December 2016 made a big difference in being able to bring in high schoolers instead.
“Last year, we signed 50 percent transfers,” Holgorsen said. “This year, we have good, quality student-athletes who are mainly high school guys. That is 100 percent” due to his signing a new contract.
There are three commits who did not sign Wednesday, but still have until Friday to do so. However, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said if a player does not sign during this window, that means he is not really committed.
“It clears a lot of stuff up because if a kid is committed, then he signs, and if not, then it’s time to move on to the next one,” he said.
One of the players who did sign was Fairmont Senior defensive lineman Dante Stills, who was one of five 4-star recruits to sign (tight end T.J. Banks, quarterback Trey Lowe, running back Leddie Brown and safety Kwantel Raines).
Stills is the son of former WVU linebacker Gary Stills and brother to current defensive lineman Darius Stills. Gibson believes he’s a player who can come in and immediately compete for playing time.
“We’ve liked Dante for a few years now,” Gibson said. “He’s been coming to our camps, and he saw his older brother go through the recruiting process. We think Dante could be an impact guy right now. I wish I had him for this bowl game, it’d be nice to get him some reps. But we plan on using him, and he’ll be right in the mix next August.”
The next signing period will begin Feb. 7.
— Martinsburg defensive end Tavis Lee will not sign until February, but is still committed to WVU. Cornerback Jayce Rogers and Australian punter Angus Davies are committed but did not send in LOIs.
— Of the 20 recruits signed, 10 states are represented, the most being Pennsylvania, with four.
— Rivals.com has WVU’s class of 2018 at 21st nationally, which would be the highest class ever since the star system came into place, in the 1990s. The previous high was 25th, in 2013. 247Sports has WVU at 31st.
— Overall, WVU signed one quarterback, one running back, four wide receivers, two tight ends, three offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, two linebackers, one cornerback, two safeties and one kicker.