By Keenan Cummings
If the Peach State to Morgantown pipeline on the football recruiting trail can be looked at as a train that’s steaming ahead, then the conductor is no other than Doug Belk.
Belk a native son of Georgia has cast his net out into the largely untapped waters by the Mountaineers football program and has fished some pretty impressive results.
“For me, having a lot of previous relationships there, recruiting in that area, people really respect the brand of West Virginia and I think they like the brand of football we play too,” Belk said.
Last season WVU pulled four prospects from the state of Georgia, one of which in Josh Norwood is currently one of the best 11 on the Mountaineers defense in fall camp.
That was a positive step. But this current class?
Out of the 13 total commitments so far, four of them already hail from the Peach State.
Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett cornerback Nicktroy Fortune, Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson wide receiver Deshon Stoudemire and Savannah (Ga.) Memorial Day School wide receiver Winston Wright were already on board with the latest pledge coming from Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill linebacker Jared Bartlett after selecting the football program Thursday night.
An athletic linebacker, Bartlett selected WVU over offers from Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest and a number of others after visiting campus for the Showtime Camp in July. Just the latest in a string of athletes to call Morgantown home and it won’t be the last either.
“When I went up there for my first visit, I loved it. The campus was beautiful and it really felt like the place for me. Everything just clicked for me and it was right. That visit just showed me what I had been researching was real,” Bartlett said.
Belk has been the primary recruiter for each of those players and the biggest factor for the young assistant has been not only his ties to the area but getting the players on campus. Belk has had success getting players up for visits during the spring and summer months and it’s led to results.
“I think that the relationships matter and they go a long way and I think we do a good job as a staff at communication and getting guys on campus and the campus sells itself once you get here,” Belk said.
The Mountaineers are still involved with a number of high end prospects from Georgia including Cedartown running back Tony Mathis who has emerged as the top option at the position in this cycle. Like his counterparts, Mathis also made the trip to Morgantown this past summer and currently has WVU as the top school on his list over Louisville, Iowa State, Wake Forest and Purdue.
Moultrie (Ga.) teammates offensive lineman Kamaar Bell and Brian Merritt also plan to take an official visit to Morgantown this fall and remain highly interested in the program. Both would address some of the pressing needs in the class with talented big bodies.
Keenan Cummings is the Senior Writer for WVSports.com with the Rivals.com/Yahoo Network.