"Jarrod Harper has a lot of god-given talent – a lot of things you can't coach," DeVore said of his star player. "I have seen him as he has grown up, and he has always been a extra step ahead of the people that he has been in competition with. In high school, he started working on his strength and speed, and he has made himself into a heck of player. He's six feet and a little over 200 pounds, and there's not an ounce of fat on him. He's strong in the weight room, and he's a good leader."
On the field, Harper has distinguished himself as well, totaling more than 1,470 yards as a running back and picking off nine passes as a free safety. DeVore believes its on the latter side of the ball that he'll make his mark in college.
"I'm not sure which position they are looking at him for, but I think West Virginia is looking at him as a defender," DeVore said. "He's a bigger type kid, and really quick. I think he would be a strong safety type that fits in their scheme. We play him at free, and for high school he's a very rangy kid with his speed and his nose for the football. He had nine interceptions for us last year, and he covers all over the field."
Harper joins a short list of Mountaineer alumni who DeVore has seen go on to West Virginia from the area. Adam Patterson of Beall High School, who lettered in 1995, and Wes Ours of Westmar, who was a fan favorite at fullback from 1997-2000, are the two others who made their way from western Maryland to Morgantown. Oddly enough, both of those high schools no longer exist, having merged into Mountain Ridge four seasons ago.
"I was an assistant coach at Beall when Adam was there, so I was familiar with him," DeVore explained. I didn't coach Wes, but I knew about the 'Wes Express'. I have never had a Division I football player as a head coach, so there has been a lot of excitement around here since Jarrod made his decision."
With the decision made, DeVore hopes that any pressure over recruiting will be removed from Harper, and from that standpoint he is happy. He knows, however, that activity won't be completely absent.
"I know other schools will be in to look at him. In fact, he had another offer from another school in the mail today. So, that will continue, but he knows WVU wanted him and he is ready to move on now. Those type of distractions will be gone and he will get back to work. This was basically Jarrod's decision. Early in the process, so we encouraged him to keep all of his avenues open, and we were kind of shocked when West Virginia offered so early in the process. We know that is something he has always wanted, though. He has always wanted to play at West Virginia.
DeVore will face the task of not overusing or putting too much pressure on his workhorse – something that he hasn't had in years past. However, Harper's work ethic and well-grounded personality should help in that effort.
"There's always a concern about expecting too much from him," DeVore admitted. "We expected a lot from him last year, and he delivered. But his teammates look up to him, and he is a good role model. We're expecting to get a good shot at a state championship next year, and we have toward that all summer. He knows that, and is ready to get back to work."
DeVore was also highly complimentary of assistant coach Jeff Casteel, who spearheaded WVU's recruitment of Harper.
Coach Casteel was in to talk to him several times, and the entire coaching staff at West Virginia was always up front, very friendly and honest. They have been open with Jarrod's parents and tell them everything."