In the newest installment of "Q & A" we examine new recruiting territories, focus on the production of new Mountaineer assistant coaches on the recruiting trail, check the status of individual recruits and more.
Q. The state of Georgia appears to be loaded with talented prospects. Can the Mountaineers land a few of those recruits? If so ....who?
A. Jon: The Peach State has always been rich in talent. For years they've produced BCS level talent and this recruiting year will be no different.
West Virginia was extremely active early in Georgia, especially with former running backs coach Robert Gillespie leading the charge. Since his departure to the University of Tennessee, Lonnie Galloway has taken over those duties.
Among the higher-rated recruits tied to WVU are four-star running back Myles Autry (Norcross, Ga.), four-star safety Cortez McDowell (Locust Grove, Ga.), and three-star linebacker KeShun Freeman (Hogansville, Ga.). All have confirmed interest in West Virginia with plans to visit in the future.
Another intriguing prospect is athlete, Maetron Thomas (Stockbridge, Ga.). A seemingly unknown recruit at the moment, the talented speedster could quickly find himself on the Mountaineers' radar.
Kevin: This is one of Lonnie Galloway's areas of coverage, and he may be spreading out a bit more from the Atlanta metro area, where he concentrated during his previous West Virginia stint. It's way too early to predict a commitment there, and WVU isn't going to haul big numbers out the state, but watch for it to put emphasis on programs like Buford High School, where it has some strong ties.
Q. With new assistant Tony Gibson back in Morgantown, can West Virginia make in-roads in Western Pennsylvania?
A. Jon: For years that section of Pennsylvania has been an emphasis of recruiting for the Mountaineers. It has, however, seemed to slow the past several years.
When Tony Gibson was lured back to West Virginia his recruiting ties to that area were a major plus. And while the recruiting process is just relatively beginning for 2014, Gibson appears to be making an impact.
Recently West Virginia hosted Gateway HS (Monroeville, Pa.) teammates Delvon Randall and Brenon Thrift. They also hosted Aliquippa, Pa., teammates Dravon Henry and Terry Swanson. Another big visitor, four-star running back Shai McKenzie, is also expected to be in town, as well as Bethlehem (Pa.) four-star wide receiver K.J. Williams.
While those early, one day visits could seem meaningless, don't discredit the value of their time on campus. The good news for Mountaineer fans is Gibson is leading the charge, laying the foundation, back in a talent rich area for the Mountaineers.
Kevin: Gibson's ties and knowledge to western PA can't be understated. He'll give WVU a connection that it might have appeared to be losing, especially with it's departure to the Big 12. That was used against WVU in recruiting, but now with Pitt departing the Big East, things might be a bit more open. There are still schools like Notre Dame, Penn State and Michigan to contend with as well, so it's not going to be easy, but Gibson has a knack for developing relationships and contacts that make him a natural.
Q. Is Marcus Whitfield still high on West Virginia?
A. Jon: Whitfield is one of the top prospects is the state of Ohio. The Massillon wide receiver/safety is drawing interest from several programs, including West Virginia.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound, athlete recently told me the Mountaineers would always be in his Top five regardless of when an offer came. He is planning to visit soon for a spring practice but said it's "more likely" he'll be in Morgantown for the spring game.
West Virginia is likely to be selective with this class given the smaller numbers they'll have to work with. So how high their interest in Whitfield will be is still to be determined. But if an offer should come, the Mountaineers seem to be in great shape.
Kevin: Numbers at the position will be a big issue as well, but Whitfield is a high level talent. If he visits, an offer becomes much more likely, and it would be hard to imagine WVU not being a player.
Q. Is WVU still active in recruiting Texas?
A. Jon: The Mountaineers still recruit the Lone star State, but you are seeing a slight decrease in activity.
In Dana Holgorsen's first full recruiting class in 2012, the Mountaineers signed five recruits from the state of Texas. That number dropped significantly last season, as they only signed one recruit, offensive lineman, Tyler Tezeno.
West Virginia has numerous offers out to prospects in Texas for 2014. Even though the Mountaineers are relatively new to the Big 12, the buzz surrounding their entrance is still strong.
With given time it's not an unrealistic expectation for WVU to sign between 3-5 prospects each class from Texas.
Kevin: The buzz around WVU recruiting Texas and Oklahoma was a bit overblown, just as it was under Rich Rodriguez when the Mountaineers brought in coaches such as Todd Graham to help establish that "pipeline". There's no way WVU can build its program based on Texas players. It can get a nice number each year, but the competition is just too stiff, and the distance too far, fo expect eight or ten players from the region every year.
As WVU matures in the Big 12, it can certainly establish more ties and make itself an attractive option to some players there. But it has to be successful in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and Florida as well -- and that's where the numbers are going to be.
Q. Is Donte' Grantham a legit target for the 2013 recruiting class?
A. Jon: Grantham has become a hot commodity the last several months. Schools all across the east coast have checked in on him -- most recently Clemson and Cincinnati. The Tigers have even extended an scholarship. MO< West Virginia has yet to offer the 6-foot-7 small forward from Martinsburg (WV), but have actively recruiting him all season. In fact, Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins sat behind the Bulldogs bench during the West Virginia boys basketball state championship game to witness Grantham's 20 point, 17 rebound performance.
The question is -- how will WVU make room? The Mountaineers currently don't have space for his addition. The thought is, however, West Virginia will clean house from this past seasons roster, therefore opening a spot for Grantham.
Each time I've spoken with the athletic forward about his recruitment he's been steadfast that he wants to be a Mountaineer. He say Huggins tells him to be patient and let it all play out. The thought from here is he'll somehow be a Mountaineer next season.
Kevin: I have very little doubt that Grantham will be offered by WVU. Additional players are going to depart from this year's team, so eventually room isn't going to be a problem. A bigger issue is the fact that Grantham is a forward, and WVU's class is already packed with four in the current class. However, note that he's a different kind of forward that Devin Williams, Brandon Watkins or Elijah Macon, so it's not like they will be battling for time in the same sort of roles. I still think the odds are that he will eventually sign with WVU.