WVU gets its guy late on Signing Day

As National Signing Day was winding down Wednesday afternoon, Dana Holgorsen and the rest of the West Virginia coaching staff looked down through their list of the newest member of the WVU football program and were pretty pleased with what they saw.

It was a group of players with a lot of promise that were going to be able to come in and give the Mountaineers plenty of depth heading into the future as West Virginia continues its journey toward becoming a consistent team that can compete with the rest of the talented teams in the Big 12 Conference. But there were still a couple of players left that Holgorsen and the other coaches were waiting to get a fax from with their signed letter of intent.

One was Xavier Pegues, a junior college defensive end who had committed to West Virginia in November along with his teammate at Itawamba Community College and WVU early enrollee Larry Jefferson. The other though was an undecided receiver who Lonnie Galloway had been recruiting extremely hard and was considered his top target: Gary Jennings.

So it wasn't hard to tell that when Jennings' commitment and letter of intent came through to the staff at 3 p.m. Wednesday, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate.

"Just a few minutes ago (wide receiver) Gary Jennings committed out of Virginia, which was kind of the last piece of the puzzle today. He’s been one of our top receiver targets," Holgorsen said as he opened his press conference Wednesday just minutes after receiving Jennings' letter of intent. "It's 100 percent (Galloway's) relationship with Gary and his family and getting Gary over here a lot and making Gary understand the need for a guy like him at receiver. I think it just played into our favor."

Jennings stands at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds - already physically ready to step in and play wide receiver at a major FBS college football program. Although he was recruited by and chose WVU over a handful of other successful Power 5 schools like Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Notre Dame, Jennings was somewhat an under-the-radar prospect among this year's crop of wide receivers. He was hampered with an ankle injury before returning to play a short stint at receiver at Colonial Forge High School (Va.) but ended the season as the team's quarterback. He also made a handful of plays on the defensive side of the ball in the secondary where he returned a handful of interceptions for touchdowns.

He ended up being a 3-star prospect on Scout.com and ranked as the No. 96 receiver in the country.

"You can get caught up in the star thing, but doing this for a while," Galloway said. "It's one of those things where you can get caught up in the stars, but you better make sure those kids fit your program. And he fits us.

"I'm glad he's ours. I wouldn't have cared if he didn't have any stars."

Galloway knew when he was recruiting Jennings that it would be a recruitment that went down to the wire, but if it meant getting the guy he wanted to get more than anyone, he was happy to wait it out.

Jennings, like the Mountaineers' other wide receiver signees Jovon Durante and Ka'Raun White, will have the opportunity to potentially jump in and make an impact at WVU from the day they step foot on campus. With the losses of Kevin White (109 catches, 1,447 yards and 10 TD) and Mario Alford (65 catches, 945 yards and 11 TD), West Virginia is looking to replace 58 percent of its receiving yards, 51 percent of its total catches and all but five of its receiving touchdowns from a year ago.

"I wanted to wait for him, he was my top priority," Galloway said of Jennings. "It was a thing where I knew in the beginning of (his recruitment) that it was going to go this far. He was a straight-laced guy."

As they were recruiting him, like they did with any player they were trying to get to come to West Virginia, the important thing was to be able to sell these kids on the fact that if they came to Morgantown - above any opportunity to play early or anything like that - it would feel like home and be the place they needed to be. And that's a big part of how the Mountaineers ended up being able to get the guy they wanted perhaps more than anyone to fill out their class on Wednesday's National Signing Day.

"The good kids when you want them, you know they're a good football player and you figure that stuff out early in May. From there, for me, it's about them feeling comfortable with me, with West Virginia and with what we're trying to do," Galloway said. "They're hearing the same things (from schools), it's about whether or not they feel comfortable with you and if they can see themselves doing what you're trying to do with them."

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