Illinois is not a state West Virginia has traditionally recruited heavily, but the Mountaineers went into the Chicago suburbs this year and came away with Mike O'Laughlin, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound high school wide receiver with the size and pass-catching skills to be featured in a variety of roles come college.
"I plan to be used as an H-Back type and move throughout the offense," he said. "Fullback, tight end, and slot."
Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Wyoming, Toledo, Western Michigan and several other schools offered O'Laughlin before he made his commitment to West Virginia in April. There were a variety of reasons he made that choice.
"The coaching staff was amazing," he said. "I really enjoyed being around all the coaches and felt comfortable. The atmosphere of
O'Laughlin comes from an athletic family. His father played college football. He was a quarterback at Illinois and Cal State Northridge, and his mother played volleyball at Illinois and Cal State Northridge. His older brother Casey will play baseball at Northwestern.
Having been around sports his whole life, he could feel the right type of coach-player relationship at West Virginia with head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff when he took an unofficial visit to Morgantown.
"The energy the coaches had throughout the day kind of showed me what they are all about even on a day they don't have much going on," O'Laughlin said. "They love football, I love football. They are honest with you and I can tell they are excited about me. It's going to be a great relationship."
And while the physical location and makeup of the town and campus were a far cry from the cityscapes of Chicago, O'Laughlin knew he had found a home away from home.
"I was really surprised about the terrain and the land there," he said. "There are a lot more hills than I thought which
O'Laughlin caught 54 passes for 939 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.
He is one of five verbal commitments for West Virginia in their 2018 class and one of three from the Midwest region.