Recruiting Continues Right Down To the Wire

There may not be many scholarships left to give out for the Mountaineer football class of 2003, but that doesn't mean there's not much work left to do.

"There is not a lot left to be done in terms of the numbers. We're about filled up," explained WVU recruiting coordinator and assistant coach Herb Hand. "But we are still hard at work with some fantastic players. We're trying to wrap things up with those guys and also hanging on to the guys who already have said they are coming to West Virginia. We want to make sure nobody sneaks in the backdoor on us with those guys.

"We busy doing both, recruiting new prospects and making sure we hang on to the ones who have already committed. It depends on your area on which you do more of. You don't want to spread yourself too thin and spend all your time recruiting people who haven't made a decision and in the process lose someone who has. It's a fine line to walk. The other thing we do now start the process of junior recruiting and evaluate prospects for next year."

With signing day looming tomorrow, WVU has its class pretty much filled up, but a surprise late signee or two seems to be the norm rather than exception. After a flurry of verbal commitments in the past week, one or two more players could still be on tomorrow's official signing list.

West Virginia has had to do a quick evaluation on some of its recruiting needs. The transfer of backup quarterback Danny Embick, who is now at Florida Atlantic, left WVU with a shortage at that position, and it's a situation the Mountaineers may have to address.

"When Danny decided to transfer, we had to do some quick assessment of the quarterback position," said Hand, who is a 1990 graduate of Hamilton College. "We have certain numbers we want at each position; the number we would like to have on scholarship at any given time. The number we would like to have at quarterback is five. Going into spring ball, we have three (Rasheed Marshall, Charles Hales and Dwayne Thompson). When Dwayne came in in January, he became the third guy. So with the number being five, we have to look at what we want to do. (WVU now has commitments from two quarterbacks, Adam Bednarik and Antonio Lewis, for the fall.) But when you lose a guy this late, you don't necessarily gain a scholarship back. You still can only have 25 initials next August, so it's not like we got another scholarship to use in this class. We already had 25 scholarships available this year. So now if we want to add another quarterback, we have to still find a way to fit him under that 25 cap. That's where things get tight. There were intense discussions going on in our staff meetings (where the final decisions who will get the final few scholarships are made)."

Obviously Hand and West Virginia's other coaches have a little easier recruiting job now that they are selling a product that was 9-4 this year, rather than one with was 3-8, as WVU was in 2001. But as all coaches will tell you, that recruiting boost actually comes down the road.

"I think the benefit of winning nine games will be seen more next year than this year," stated Hand. "The guys we're recruiting now, we started recruiting them last May when we were still 3-8. They've gone through the season with us, and they can see the direction the program is heading, going from 3-8 to 9-4. It shows that everything is going in the right direction, and it will help us finish out on some guys. But the benefit of being a nine-win team will be seen with the current juniors. When we go out and start recruiting in May, we can sell that nine-win season to the prospects who will be seniors next fall. The guys we're recruiting now, we started out by selling them with three wins and having faith. That's the big difference."

Mother Nature, or whoever is controlling the weather, hasn't been very friendly to the Mountaineers in January. Each recruiting weekend at WVU seems to bring a new wave of cold, snowy weather. Such winter conditions can be a little scary, especially from recruits from warmer climates, but you can't beat Mother Nature. So what the Mountaineers have tried to do when dealt lemons is turn it into lemonade. Like everything with recruiting, some kids like lemonade, some kids don't.

"You've got to deal with it, because it seems like we have snow every visit weekend. I don't know if (Pitt's) Walt Harris or (Maryland's) Ralph Friedgen have control of our weather," chuckled Hand. "We've definitely had to deal with some snowy and cold visit weekend. It's something you can't just ignore. You have to deal with it, and what we do is tell the kids, ‘Hey, if you want to play in the NFL, you're going to have to go to Green Bay in December. You better learn to handle it now.' "

Tommorow, we'll have part two of this indepth conversation with Hand, which appeared in the February 1 edition of the Blue & Gold News.

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