Short Term, Long Term

Wednesday, Feb. 4 will bring results to Mountaineer sports program that will have both near- and long-term effects.

The most publicized events of the day will occur in the Puskar Center, as WVU's football class of 2009 is announced. Faxes can begin rolling in as early as 7:00 AM, and there are always a few that come across the wires just a few minutes after the start of Signing Day. By mid-afternoon, expect about 26 or 27 signees to be announced, which will put the Mountaineers right at the maximum allowable limit of 25 "counters" in this year's class. West Virginia was expected to be able to count January scholarship enrollees Logan Heastie and Chris Palmer against last year's class, which would give them a bit of wiggle room in this year's list.

As usual, the definitive list of recruits for this year might not be complete by the 3:00 PM press conference on Signing Day, nor even by the close of business that night. It would not be a surprise to see a late signee, especially along the defensive line or at linebacker, to fill a final gap at one or two of those spots. That will depend on what happens with a couple of players that won't make their decisions known until Signing Day. The most notable player in that category is linebacker Ka'lial Glaud, who has used every available moment to ponder his choice of schools. West Virginia has long been at or near the top of Glaud's list, and his letter of intent is one that WVU coaches will be anxiously awaiting on Wednesday.

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Here's my current best guess at to position numbers for the class:

Quarterback: 1
Running Back: 3
Fullback: 1
Wide Receiver: 3
Offensive Line: 6
Defensive Line: 4
Linebacker: 2
Cornerback: 3
Safety: 3

Of course, the only thing I'm sure about is that these numbers won't be exactly right. But that's probably true of every recruiting list in the country right now – the handful of unknowns is just impossible to predict.

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I've seen a fair number of rips on fans for being excited about recruiting classes, or being interested in it, or for buying into evaluations such as those provided by Scout.com. And frankly, I wonder why. I understand recruiting isn't for everyone. It's an inexact science. You don't have to follow it to enjoy college sports. But if it heightens your interest, or gives more enjoyment, what's the problem? And for those that note that evaluations and ratings of players often aren't accurate, therefore aren't worth the time, I'd ask why they bother doing game previews or preseason picks. Those too, are guesses, and often just as wildly inaccurate.

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Football recruiting makes up the long-range effects portion of this column. Other than a handful of players, most of the 2009 signees will hold down redshirts and spots on the scout team this fall. Their impact on the program won't be felt for at least a year or two. That doesn't make them any less important, of course.

Oh, you want to know who might avoid a redshirt and be an immediate contributor? At this point, Tavon Austin, Logan Heastie, Chris Snook and Tevita Finau would be on that list from the raw talent standpoint. From the need side, wide receivers and corners should have the best overall chance at seeing action. And if Jarrett Brown suffers any injury problems, you can throw Eugene Smith right in there as well.

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So what's the short-term side? The basketball team's trip to Syracuse. Every league game is big, but the road trip to the House of Orange seems to fall at a critical juncture for this WVU team. Get a win, and the Mountaineers can set themselves up for a manageable stretch in which it could string together some wins and bolster its tournament resume. Everything would have to fall into place just right, but with three home games out of the next four, and a slightly less challenging slate to wind down the season (even though it does included rematches against Pitt and Louisville), the Mountaineers might be able to put together six or seven wins over its final nine contests. While that's not totally dependent on getting a win at the ‘Cuse, it would certainly provide a great stepping-stone into stringing together a few wins.

What makes his stretch all the more important is that many games are against teams WVU is fighting directly against in the league standings. In addition to Syracuse, Providence, Villanova, Notre Dame and Cincinnati are in that mix, and wins over those schools would provide a needed tiebreaker edge.

For Mountaineer fans, Wednesday will be a day to look far down the road, but also to get a glimpse of what the next couple of weeks may hold. There's something for everyone to enjoy and latch on to – and hopefully it will be a day of great results for both programs.


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