By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
April 30, 2012 10:05 AM
|West Virginia's focus on recruiting Texas has already paid dividends with the performance of freshman running back Dustin Garrison in 2011.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
The move to the Big 12 Conference has already benefitted West Virginia’s football recruiting efforts, but precisely where the Mountaineers are still getting their football players hasn’t changed much since the school announced it was leaving the Big East last fall.
Coach Dana Holgorsen explains.
“If you look back at West Virginia where we’ve got guys, the surrounding states there is such good football,” he explained. “West Virginia doesn’t have a ton of Division I kids every year but Ohio does, Pennsylvania does, Maryland does, Virginia does and New Jersey does, which has always been the backbone of what our program has been all about.
“And over the last 20 years we’ve been able to get down into Florida, which we’ve got a handle on that. We’ve got three guys down there full-time right now and we got 12 kids out of there last year,” Holgorsen said.
What has changed slightly is that West Virginia is now traveling to Texas to sign more players. In the two recruiting cycles Holgorsen has been involved with the Mountaineer program, his coaches have been able to nab quite a few rising prospects.
Holgorsen has noted in the past that top players in the southwest typically commit early to schools in that region and slots fill up quickly, meaning players that blow up during their senior seasons are often available for out-of-state schools to pursue.
“Ever since I got hired about 15-16 months ago, it’s been (Athletic Director) Oliver (Luck’s) wish to get into Texas a little bit,” Holgorsen said. “That was the one thing that was attractive about getting me up here to West Virginia is to be able to get down there and use my connections, which we have been able to get seven or eight kids over the last two signing classes.
“We will continue to try and go in there and get a couple of kids that have fantastic senior years,” he added.
For decades, nearby Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland were able to provide the vast majority of West Virginia’s out-of-state talent. Non-traditional places such as New Orleans, Chicago, Long Island, N.Y., southern New Jersey, Virginia Beach, Va., and Mobile, Ala., have also provided the Mountaineers with talent through the years when members of the coaching staff had relationships in those areas.
And now the Dallas-Houston area appears to be the next territory to impact the Mountaineer football roster.
Although not likely to change the face of the program the way Florida did in the late 1980s, Texas can still provide an excellent supplement to West Virginia’s northeastern recruiting philosophy – and continue what has been an extremely successful approach over the last 25 years or so.
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