The signing of the class of 2002 in February didn't end the Mountaineers' recruiting efforts. They simply turned the page and started concentrating on the class of 2003.
Under Rich Rodriguez, WVU has now organized a "Junior Day," which was held at Mountaineer Field earlier this spring. Call it the kickoff effort for the next class, as hundreds of senior-to-be prospects are invited to WVU for what for most will be their first taste of a big-time recruiting effort.
West Virginia recruiting coordinator Herb Hand was very happy with how this year's Junior Day, the second at WVU, was received by the prospects and their families.
"I thought it was awesome. We had so many good comments from the players and parents who were there," explained Hand. "The staff did an incredible job. We had 140 players and another 300 family members or coaches or whoever who came with those players. To be able to handle almost 450 people and keep it organized was a great tribute to our staff. It was more than just the coaches, too, much more. Kim Calandrelli is our recruiting secretary, and she was just wonderful. Mike Kerin and Donnie Young, Doug Elias and the strength staff, Kirlav (Bill Kirelawich) and the academic people, and of course the coaches, they all made it a great event. When you can have that many people come through, and when they walk away and they tell you what a great experience they had, that's really a positive. I thought it was a really great day.
"Our players also were a great help. One of the highlights of the day was a player panel that we had. We had nine guys - A.J. Nastasi, Lance Nimmo, Avon Cobourne, Rasheed Marshall, Scott Gyorko, Ernest Hunter, Brad Knell and some others - a mix of young guys and older guys. We set up this panel, and then the coaches left the room. It was just a question-and-answer session for the parents and the prospects with our players. We left them in there for about a half hour, and that was one of the best things about the entire day. Everyone said they were just blown away by that panel, because it provided them with some straight forward answers. That was a great tool, and our players did a great job making that a success."
With over 400 people looking around Mountaineer Field, it took a great deal of work and organization to make sure the tours and the entire day went smoothly.
"We broke them up into recruiting groups, based on where the prospect was from and what coach recruited that territory," said Hand. "For instance, Coach Stew (Bill Stewart) and I combined our groups because neither was overly large. We took them on a tour of our facilities with about five different stops on the tour. Coach Gibbie (Tony Gibson) has Western Pa and West Virginia, which was by far the largest group we had, but Coach Trick (Rick Trickett), who recruited West Virginia last year, helped out and took some of them. Coach Trickett is going to concentrate on Alabama and Mississippi now, and we had a few kids in from Alabama, but Trick was still able to take some others. We had a quarterback come all the way from Dallas, Texas, which is Coach (Todd) Graham's territory, and he was able to take some other kids as well.
We split the tour up but just keeping people moving and on schedule was a task. What we wanted to do was make it an informative day, and I think everybody came away really impressed with the program, the facilities, the coaches and the players. That's what you're trying to accomplish, and I think we did that.
"Despite the fact we had so many prospects in, I still think we were able to provide every one of them with individual attention. That's always a concern when you have a group that large. But of the 140 guys in, I really think that each one of those guys got individual attention, and that's important."
Junior Day was a big recruiting event, but it's far from the last one the Mountaineers will be involved with over the spring and summer. The coaches' clinic and the Gold/Blue game were held in April, while in June, the Rich Rodriguez football camps, featuring four different sessions, will be back for their second appearance. As usual, those camps will have some excellent prospects in attendance.
"The coaches' clinic is huge," stated Hand. "Last year we had over 400 coaches at the clinic. Anytime you have a chance to build relationships, that's vital. That's what recruiting is all about. You never know when the coach is going to be the trigger you need to land a recruit. There is going to be someone a kid is going to go to look for advice, and you need to know who that person is going to be, if it is his coach, a parent, a friend, a grandparent, aunt, uncle, whoever. You have to build those relationships, and an opportunity to spend time with the players' coaches is huge. Plus, we also go out to other clinics. Coach (Paul) Randolph, Coach Gibson and myself just went out to the Mega Clinic in Atlantic City. There were 1,500 or 2,000 coaches there, and we spent two and a half days there presenting some things. Those opportunities are big.
"In May we have spring evaluations. That's when we're allowed to go on the road and talk to coaches and counselors. We can't talk to the prospects, but you can see and be seen. After that, we get into our camps in June. This year we'll have an individual camp, a youth camp (for ages 8-12), a team camp, a seven-on-seven passing league and also a one-day rising senior camp.
Last year we did our rising senior camp in July, but the day we picked happened to be the day of the Big 33 Game, so we didn't get anyone from Pennsylvania to come because most of them go to that game. So this year we've moved it up, and it will be June 29.
"Camps are a key for evaluation both ways," added Hand. "Obviously we like to get the guys on campus so we can look at them and show off our coaches and facilities, but it's also a chance for them to evaluate us. If you get a kid to come to your individual camp, you're going to get a chance to work with him over a course of three days. You get to find out about his work ethic, and he gets to find out about your temperament and the way you coach and those sorts of things. It's an important evaluation process both ways."
With the recruiting process for the class of 2003 underway, the Mountaineers have already established a list of their needs.
"A high priority for us will be linemen next year, particularly offensive linemen," noted Hand. "We'll need four or five offensive linemen. We need some defensive linemen as well, especially interior Dlinemen.
We recruited several defensive linemen this year, but most of them are defensive end types. We need some interior guys in this class. After that, we need a mix of everything. We'll sign another full class. We may have some Props from this year's class that we'll have to hold over and count towards next year, but we still expect to sign a full class."
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