The Mountaineer staff signed 23 players for its initial class under Stewart. Heavy in defensive players overall and linemen in particular, the class elevated itself from the lower 60s through the upper 30s rank-wise during signing day. Here is the second installment of a three-part series on Stewart's thoughts on his new players.
Stewart, on Corey Freeman, a 6-3, 220-pound defensive lineman from Cleveland Heights, Ohio: "Neat young man. Steve Dunlap went up and did a fantastic job up there. Really gets off the ball well and has a chance to be an edge player for us in the 3-3-5 stack, and that's what we need. He is fast. We went out and recruited some speed."
Bio: Coached by Jeff Rotsky at Cleveland Heights High School … four-year letterwinner … as a senior, he finished with 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss … Blocked four field goals, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery … named first-team all-state … selected All-Lake Erie League first-team … a first-team all-district honoree … runs a 4.55/40-yard dash, has a 35-inch vertical jump and benches 310 pounds … son of Corey Locke and Pamela Sloan.
On Josh Jenkins, a 6-5, 305-pound offensive lineman from Parkersburg, W.Va.: "The pride of Parkersburg, one of the finest offensive lineman we will ever recruit. This guy aged coach (Doc) Holliday. He went from reddish to grayish to no hair in the last 26 days. We could not have gotten Josh Jenkins without Doc Holliday. They bonded very well and all the accolades you see are true. He is a special young man. We loved him in camp as a junior. He gave us a little gray hair, but it's worth it. We thought he would be the bell cow of the linemen in the class. He is a tough competitor. We are thrilled he stayed home. He could have gone all over the country. He kept his word and that means a lot to us here."
Bio: Coached by Bernie Buttrey at Parkersburg High School … top recruit in the state of West Virginia … first West Virginia player to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas … graded out at 98 percent for his senior season … collected 158 pancake blocks … finished with 113 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four fumble recoveries … USA Today first-team All-American … Parade Magazine All-American team … a three-time AAA first-team all-state selection … three-time all-MSAC Conference honoree … helped lead the Big Reds to a 13-1 record and the AAA state championship in back-to-back seasons … runs a 5.2/40-yard dash and bench presses 400 pounds … also plays basketball … son of Deborah Johnson.
On Joe Madsen, a 6-4, 270-pound offensive lineman from Chardon High in Ohio: "Another camp guy. His family is from West Virginia. He impressed me. He has a motor that goes non-stop. I thought last year in camp those (line) guys were going to hurt each other. It was full-mode and never stop. He can play either side and we are probably going to play him offensive first because that is what he wants to do. I am thrilled to have him."
Bio: Coached by Jim Dipofi at Chardon High School … two-way starter at defensive tackle and offensive tackle … three-year letterwinner and team captain … collected 59 total tackles, including 21 solo stops, five sacks and 18 tackles for loss … also had 16 assisted tackles, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery ... selected first-team All-Ohio guard … first-team All-Premier Athletic Conference honoree … named first-team Northeast Lakes all-district … earned most valuable player honors at the West Virginia summer camp … helped lead Chardon to a 10-3 record and the first round of the playoffs as a junior … son of Eric and Reta Madsen.
On Donovan Miles, a 6-2, 225-pound linebacker from Virginia: "You hate to say the best or nicest or whatever [about a certain player]. But this is probably the nicest young man I have ever recruited. He plays like a man possessed and his high school coach played for coach (Jeff) Casteel. He can run. I went on Bus Four on the way to the Fiesta Bowl so I could call recruits. I called him and said, "Happy New Year", and [told him] to tell your momma Happy New Year and your coach, too. I do know that I am proud of you and that you stuck by your word. I want you to come to West Virginia. I don't know if I will have a job. But the most important thing is you come to West Virginia and be the best you can be."
Bio: Coached by Jeff Berry at Brooke Point High School … finished with 107 tackles, including eight sacks and 21 tackles for loss as a senior … a two-time all-district and all-area performer … helped lead the Blackhawks to a 9-2 record, including a 7-0 conference record, the Commonwealth District championship and an appearance in the regional playoffs … collected 114 tackles, 10 sacks and 21 tackles for loss as a junior … Brooke Point finished 7-4 and made an appearance in the first round of the region playoffs … runs a 4.5/40-yard dash … son of Michael Robinson.
On Ja'tavious Miller, a 6-0, 208-pound linebacker from Pahokee, Fla: "Man can this guy go. I asked his mother if he has always been like this. From the time he was little it's been non-stop, full speed. You should see this guy in front of a huddle. He commands respect instantly. Wow."
Bio: Coached by Blaze Thompson at Pahokee High School … finished with 109 tackles, eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss and two interceptions as a senior … registered 14 tackles against Newberry HS in the state championship game … two-time first-team 2B all-state … two-time 2B all-area … Palm Beach Post first-team small school all-area honoree … played in the Outback Bowl state all-star game and the North-South all-star game … helped lead the Blue Devils to back-to-back 14-0 records and the state 2B championship his junior and senior seasons … as a junior, he collected 125 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries … runs a 4.44/40-yard dash, has a 28.6 vertical jump and has benched 225 pounds 10 times … volunteered with elementary school tutoring and helped with hurricane clean-up … son of Lynora Fulmore.
On Chris Palmer, a 6-4, 290-pound defensive lineman out of Philadelphia: "He committed early and kept his bond. Bill Kirelawich is so high on this guy. As fast as he is, and you can see the vertical, he is girthy, like Tevita [Finau]. He is a big man. This is a big, strong youngster."
Bio: Coached by Bill Sytsma at St. John Neumann High School … played both offensive and defensive lines … described as the quickest offensive guard in the Philadelphia Catholic School League … selected to the Harrisburg Patriot News Platinum 33 team … earned Scout.com and Super Prep All-American honors… offense averaged more than 400 yards a game in total offense, including 250 yards a game rushing … team had a 1,400-yard rusher … collected 64 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks as a senior … earned All-Catholic League honors two years as a defensive lineman and one time on offense … selected to play in the Philadelphia city all-star game … as a junior, finished with 62 tackles, nine tackles for loss and had five sacks … runs a 5.0/40-yard dash, has a 29-inch vertical jump and benches more than 300 pounds … son of Rudy and Grace Palmer.
On Robert Sands, a 6-6, 205-pound safety out of Miami: "I told Doc walking out of the home, old buddy, you land that one and that's the real deal. He committed to Pitt and we went in and Doc turned it. We had help in the school. Old Lorenzo Styles (a former WVU offensive lineman) is assistant principal there. He helped us and the community helped us. It was one of the finest home visits I was ever at. Doc, (RB coach) Chris Beatty and myself. You cannot believe what an athlete this is at 6-6, 205 pounds. This guy has as bright a future as any young man that has been here in years. This cat can play and he will be special. He will be a lot of fun and coach (Steve) Dunlap will have his hands full."
Bio: Coached by Walter Frazier at Miami Carol City Senior High School … selected second-team all-state by the Miami Herald … Dade County Top 25 by the Miami Herald … collected 60 tackles as a senior … had two interceptions and broke up five passes against the nation's No. 5 team, Booker T. Washington High School … registered 60 tackles as a junior … helped lead the Chiefs to the second round of the state playoffs … he also ran track … finished third in the state in the triple jump … selected first-team All-Dade County … runs a 4.54/40-yard dash and bench presses 265 pounds … son of Veronica Sands.
On D.J. Shaw, a 6-1, 290-pound defensive lineman from Bude, Miss.: "Reminds me of (current WVU DB) Archie Sims. He is strong. He plays fast and hard. He is a good guy. We had a connection with his juco coach who played down at Concord. I told them to find out what kind of character he has, because I can see the film on him [is good]. This just kind of fell into place. He is a great one."
Bio: Coached by Glenn Davis at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss. … registered 56 total tackles, including 34 solo stops, three sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 15 quarterback hits … selected honorable mention all-state … collected 23 tackles as a freshman, including 13 unassisted tackles and a sack … helped lead Co-Lin to a 9-3 record, the South Division Championship and a runner-up finish in the state championship game … Co-Lin won the Sea Island Company Golden Isles Bowl Championship … prepped at Franklin County High School in Meadville, Miss. … used as a fullback in high school … ran 113 times for 558 yards and seven touchdowns … helped lead Franklin County to a 6-4 record and the first round of the state playoffs … named all-division 7-3A and one of the Clarion Ledger's Top 125 prospects in the state … runs a 5.0/40-yard dash, benches 425 pounds and squats 650 pounds.