Recent Rise Helps WVU Secure Top JUCO Corner

Immediate playing time and West Virginia's recent rise to the upper echelon of college football spurred a change of mind for cornerback Ellis Lankster, who changed his verbal commitment from Mississippi State to the Mountaineers after visiting this weekend.

The four-star defensive back, ranked as the top junior college player at his position, was originally recruited by WVU assistant head coach Rick Trickett - who recruits the deep south for WVU - out of C.F. Vigor High in Prichard, Ala. He verballed to Alabama-Birmingham his senior season, then chose JUCO power Jones County. As a prep upperclassman, he scored 24 touchdowns, including 19 rushing and five via reception. He also had over 1,400 yards rushing and recorded nine interceptions. His junior and senior seasons, he had a combined 22 picks, earning him a reputation not only as a potential shut down player, but one with the nose for the ball and the ability to break on passes.

After giving a verbal to MSU on November 19 following a visit there from Jones County, Lanster's visit to West Virginia changed his mind this week. The 5-11, 190-pounder, who is fully qualified already and will enroll this month for the next semester, will have two seasons left in which to play. While he did not watch the match-up between his two finalist schools this year in Mississippi, Lankster said he saw the final result and stats, which also helped him make up his mind later.

"I'll have the ability to make an immediate impact," said Lankster, who manned the corner spot and also returned punts and kicks for Jones County this season. "I am going to try to make plays for the team and fans. Playing time was a big deal to me. I only have so much time left. And they made me feel like I was at home. They said I would be working, and that I would need to get all my schoolwork done before I could play. West Virginia was really excited that I was coming, but Mississippi State said they would keep calling. I feel really good about West Virginia, though."

Lankster's high school honors included being named Offensive Player of the Year in his district and First Team 6A All-State selection. He had 59 tackles, six interceptions and a blocked field goal this year for Jones County. Fellow Prichard, Ala. native Abraham Jones, a senior free safety for WVU, hosted him on his recruiting trip. Besides Trickett, position coach Tony Gibson was also heavily involved. Lankster also had offers from Memphis, Ole Miss, Kansas and Southern Miss, among others.

"West Virginia has a college town feel to it, and I liked that," Lankster said. "And West Virginia is going to be in the top 10 next year to start the season. They also had two guys that were playing for the Heisman Trophy this year, so they can get exposure for players. That was another factor. I had known Ham Jones from high school, and we had a really good time up there."

Jones County already had its team banquet, and Lankster was named its top defensive backfield player and its best punt and kickoff returner after also being named a first-team junior college All-American as a DB and kick returner. He had no prior contacts at West Virginia, but did note that the program's high visibility pushed it past Mississippi State's. He can help the Mountaineers at corner, and should give them the combination of an aggressive punch and run supporter with solid pass coverage skills demanded by the 3-3-5 odd stack defense. He said growing up, he always wanted to play in the Southeastern Conference, but that West Virginia has shown the Big East can play as well. Lankster will be able to go through spring drills at WVU, provided there are no unexpected NCAA clearinghouse issues.

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