MORGANTOWN — The WVU football team brought in the best recruiting class ranking the program has seen Dec. 20 during the newly introduced early signing day.
As the Letters of Intent filtered into the Puskar Center, head coach Dana Holgorsen said those were not the most important recruits he reeled in during the last week.
“Obviously, [signing day] is a good recruiting day, but Will was the most important recruit,” Holgorsen said of quarterback Will Grier.
Grier announced last week that he would return for his senior season with the Mountaineers and forgo the NFL draft one more year. Despite breaking his throwing hand Nov. 18, against Texas, Grier tested the waters and entered paperwork to the NFL to receive a grade.
His prospects looked good, but Grier decided to give college one more try.
“We recruited our tail off and I’m really proud of our staff,” Holgorsen said. Associate athletic director for football Alex Hammond) “who is our NFL liaison, did a really great job. I’m happy with our administration on supporting us, as well, to recruit him and get him to come back for his senior year.”
Grier threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns — 18 of those going to wide receiver David Sills. Similar to Grier, Sills looked into turning pro, but ultimately decided to come back for his senior season.
It was Sills’ first season of playing receiver full time. During his freshman year at WVU, he was a quarterback but turned into a receiver in the second half. He then transferred to El Camino (Calif.) College to fulfill his goal of playing quarterback in college, but knew his best opportunity to go to the NFL was at receiver, so he returned to WVU.
A year later, Holgorsen had to give Sills the same speech he had already given before.
“I had to re-recruit Sills for the third time,” Holgorsen said with a chuckle. “Who recruits a kid three times? This is the third time I have had to recruit him. That to me is kind of funny. It’s a different set of circumstances with the same reason.”
With Grier and Sills deciding to come back, that means the Mountaineers will return 14 of 22 starters on offense and defense. The expectations will be there to compete for a Big 12 championship, and with the way 2017 ended, Holgorsen believes his two star juniors made their decisions more on what they didn’t do rather than what they did do.
“That was step one, then some other chips fell in place after that,” he said. “Getting those juniors back is important. I think that’ll help us with a lot of momentum going into 2018.
“I think unfinished business more than anything. Will came here to win the Big 12 and be the best that he can be. I don’t think we are there yet. That was my message to him. He agrees. It’s unfinished business with David, too. This coaching staff and this program mean a lot to them as well as this university. This state means a lot to both of those kids.”
Sills agreed, believing that next season could be something special.
“We’re definitely going into next year with the mentality of unfinished business,” he said. “We’re very motivated going into next year. Right now, we are thinking about this bowl game, but after that, we will be working toward next season.”
Holgorsen also confirmed that Grier will not play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, on Tuesday, against Utah. Chris Chugunov will get the start for the second-straight game.
BOSCH TO MISS BOWL
Starting guard Kyle Bosch will not play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl because of an undisclosed injury. He did not play the final regular season game, at Oklahoma.
Bosch, a senior, transferred from Michigan and started 37 games with the Mountaineers from 2015-’17. He will be replaced by fellow senior Grant Lingafelter in the starting lineup.
CAJUSTE TO RETURN
Junior offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste announced he will return for his senior season, in 2018.
“I’m excited to return to WVU and spend another year with a great group of teammates and be coached by the best offensive line coach in the country,” he said. “I spent a lot of time talking with my family and coaches, putting much thought and prayer into this decision. Returning for my senior season gives me a chance to help this program make a championship run, and will further position me toward accomplishing my goals and dreams of playing in the NFL.”
Cajuste, who graduated last week with a degree in multidisciplinary studies, was a 2017 all-Big 12 second team honoree. He started all 12 games this season and helped pave the way for the offense to rank among the nation’s top 20 in passing and first down offense (12), total offense (16) and scoring offense (19). The offense line also was No. 9 nationally in fewest tackles for loss allowed and No. 28 in fewest sacks allowed.
Holgorsen announced the Mountaineers’ player of the year awards for outstanding performance on the field.
Offensive player of the year: Gary Jennings; defensive player of the year: David Long; special teams player of the year: Marcus Simms; offensive scout team player of the year: Jack Allison; defensive scout team player of the year: Deamonte Lindsay; Curtis Jones Jr. Award: Jon Lewis; Mr. Unselfish: Ezekiel Rose; Ed Pastilong Captain’s Award: Al-Rasheed Benton, Elijah Wellman; and team captains: Al-Rasheed Benton, Elijah Wellman, Ka’Raun White and Kyzir White.