With offers from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford, it was always going to be a tough selection process for St. Clairsville High School linebacker Brendan Ferns.
Add in the fact that the program he grew up supporting and that his brother Michael currently plays for, West Virginia, was hot on his recruiting trail, and Ferns’ decision became even more difficult.
Today, the Scout four-star recruit and top rated linebacker in the state of Ohio chose to further his education, football career and family legacy at West Virginia.
Although the family ties and close proximity to home - St. Clairsville is only about an hour-and-a-half from Morgantown - seemed to tip the scales in the Mountaineers’ favor, the man who spearheaded his recruitment said he never knew for sure about how things would shake out until Ferns’ NLI came through this morning.
Offensive line coach Ron Crook, who handles WVU’s recruiting in Ohio, was also involved in Brendan’s older brother’s recruitment while he was on staff at Stanford a few years back. According to Crook, Brendan kept his intentions much more hidden than Michael did.
“We never really knew what he was thinking, what his thoughts were," Crook said. "I was involved in recruiting his older brother when I was at Stanford. It was the very opposite of him. They were very public with Michael, and with Brendan they were very quiet. It kind of goes to the point that recruiting every guy is different. Recruiting every position is different."
Such is the nature of recruiting today. There are some prospects who keep true to their word, some that waver, and some still that don’t give much of an indication as to what they are thinking at all until decision day arrives.
“People react different ways. There’s no right or wrong way to go through it," Crook said. "It was definitely interesting. “Right up until the end we weren’t positive what was going to go on. We felt strongly in him coming here, being close by, his brother being here. He’s been a WVU fan and been going to games all his life. We found it tough to believe that he would go elsewhere, but I’ve seen crazier things happen.”
In the end, the comforts of home and family seem to have swung the scale in West Virginia’s favor. Crook said Ferns indicated his desire to be able to travel between Morgantown and home so he could still be involved in his little sister’s athletic career.
“The one thing that we knew, was that he was very close with his sister, as well as his parents and his brother," Crook said. "Being close enough to still see his sister play in her high school games, being able to play with his brother again (was important). There were certain things he said at times about how important it was to play with his brother and things like that. We believed that this was the way it was going to work out, but again, we weren’t positive."
Ferns may have been the big fish that Crook helped to reel in for the program, but he also managed to pick up some needed help for his own position group. This year’s recruiting class included four offensive linemen, Chase Behrndt, Jacob Buccigrossi, Josh Sills and Craig Smith.
Behrndt, who comes to WVU from Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Missouri, was rated as the second-best offensive guard in the Show Me State. He is also the only current player on the Mountaineer roster from Missouri.
Jacob Buccigrossi enrolled at WVU in January after serving as a three-year starter at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh. He is ranked as the No. 3 guard in Pennsylvania. Josh Sills brings a diverse skill set with him to Morgantown. In addition to being ranked as the No. 4 guard in Ohio, Sills also handled the kicking and punting duties for Meadowbrook High School, but will not kick at West Virginia.
Craig Smith was the last of the group to be announced as a signee, but brings valuable junior college experience to the table. He was named to the NJCAA All-American First Team last season while playing for coach Danny Palmer at Tyler Junior College in Texas.
"They all have a good potential upside," Crook said.