First Look

One of several Ohio players to visit West Virginia for Saturday's win over Syracuse has the versatility that is highly prized by the Mountaineer coaching staff.

Mark Wooldridge of Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls made the trip across the Ohio River to look at WVU for the first time, and came away impressed.

"I thought the campus was good, and it's a great stadium," said the even-keeled Wooldridge, who has offers from a number of Mid-American Conference schools but appears close to getting some from BCS conferences. "The coaches were good to talk with. It was a nice visit. There wasn't anything that really took me by surprise there. I was expecting to see everything that was there."

Wooldridge is an outstanding running back at Walsh, using a combination of speed (4.35 in the 40-yard dash) and strengths 190 lbs.) to dart around potential tacklers and finish runs. His height of five feet, nine inches has likely kept some schools from looking too closely, but his versatility on both sides of the ball has schools like West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Florida intrigued.

"West Virginia has talked to me about an offer," Wooldridge said after his visit. "When I was there, I gave them tape from my senior season to watch. I talked with Coach Bruce Tall a lot, and he said they are looking at me as an athlete. They want to watch my tape and then they said they'd be in touch with me about an offer and an official visit."

Wooldridge's talents on both sides of the ball are evident, but they haven't been on display as much this year, as Jesuit is playing him mostly at running back. However, WVU's history of recruiting running backs to play other positions is well established, and Wooldridge has no problem with that.

"Last year I played outside linebacker, safety and corner," Wooldridge said. "That's what West Virginia likes about me. They don't have to bring me in at one position. I can play a lot of places, and I can return kicks too. I ran back punts and kickoffs last year."

Wooldridge's concentration on offense this year has paid great dividends for Walsh Jesuit. With one regular season remaining, he has gained 1500 yards and scored 18 touchdowns, despite facing defenses stacked against him. With those numbers, he is bound to pick up more offers between now and signing day, but his official visit plans are already taking shape.

"Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida have already told me they want me for an official visit after the season, but I still have to schedule a date for those," Wooldridge said. "If West Virginia offers, I would take a visit there too. I would like to go somewhere not too far from home, so my family can see me play. West Virginia is very nice, and I like Illinois too. Those are probably my top two schools right now."

NOTES

Wooldridge's uncle, John Wooldridge, was a starting running back for Ohio State in the mid-1980s. OSU has shown some interest, but an offer does not appear to be forthcoming from the Buckeyes. That leaves the field wide open for the high-level Division IA schools that end up offering scholarships, with the Big Ten schools and West Virginia, due to their proximity, probably holding an advantage.

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Wooldridge has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons for Walsh Jesuit.

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Wooldridge could also get a look at running back or slot receiver, but with West Virginia's recruiting priorities in the defensive secondary, would likely begin his career there as a defender.


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