The Times West Virginian

Sports

February 5, 2014

Mountaineers expected to sign top 40 class

MORGANTOWN — From Austin to Norman, from Manhattan to Stillwater, from Fort Worth to El Paso to Waco, from Ames to Lawrence and, yes, as far east as Morgantown, today is the day when the future of Big 12 football for the next half a decade is laid.

And, in none of those western outposts, is what transpires on today’s national letter-of-intent day any more meaningful than it is right here in Morgantown, where football fortunes have turned badly with the departure from the Big East and arrival into the Big 12.

West Virginia University believes it has made that turn and will bring in at least 16 new signees to join six others who have already signed national letters of intent and begun school this semester. The class is being ranked a Top 40 recruiting class.

Coming off losing six of their final eight games in 2012 after having climbed into the nation’s Top 10 going unbeaten through its first five games and then staggering from a 7-6 season to a 4-8 season last year, coach Dana Holgorsen finds himself not only recruiting for the program’s future but his own and has dived head first into it.

At the top of the high school players who will announce they intend to attend WVU next fall are a pair of four-star players in quarterback William Crest, who is riding the same railroad that brought now NFL player Tavon Austin from Baltimore-Dunbar to Morgantown, and defensive back Dravon Henry from Aliquippa, where he was one of Western Pennsylvania’s top prospects this season.

Crest is expected to compete for the starting quarterback position with holdovers Clint Trickett and Paul Millard and junior college recruit Skyler Howard, although it’s expected that Holgorsen would love to have the freedom to prepare him for a season if he had his way.

Crest is a dual-threat quarterback capable of doing miraculous things along the lines of Patrick White, as shown when his high school coach Lawrence Smith recently recalling his favorite William Crest moment for the Baltimore Sun.

Crest had already scored two rushing touchdowns against City this past October when the Poets faced a fourth-and-9 from the Knights’ 12-yard line, trailing 26-22.

The call with 12.4 seconds remaining in the game was for a pass, but the senior saw an opening to the left and darted down the sideline, stopping only after his outstretched arms toppled the front pylon of the end zone for the game-winning score.

This was exactly the kind of thing that WVU never got last season, and there were very few teams in America who needed more of it.

Crest had been recruited by Ohio State, Maryland, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Rutgers and Virginia Tech but followed Austin and Marvin Gross, a defensive end who came from Dunbar to WVU last year.

“The fan base pulled me in; the coaches pulled me in,” Crest told the Baltimore Sun. “I’m big on the whole family thing. I know what it feels like to feel loved, and that’s how I feel about West Virginia.”

“He was a guy they targeted very early,” Keenan Cummings, a senior writer for WV Sports.com, said. “West Virginia’s quarterback situation is about as wide open as it can be. … They’re pretty much pegging him as the future.”

More to the present is Henry, who comes over with defensive lineman Jaleel Fields, a teammate at Aliquippa.

WVU is looking for defensive backs who can move in immediately, and Henry fits that mold.

West Virginia lands Henry over Pitt and Miami. He joins another Aliquippa player in running back Rushel Shell, who transferred from Pitt after playing there as a freshman and sitting out last season.

“It’s a relief, man,” Henry said after announcing his choice of schools. “You can see it’s a relief for everybody in this room, not just me. Everybody is smiling and happy, and that’s why I think I made the right decision.”

Henry was listed as the 149th-best prospect nationally by Rivals.com, placing him second among all players in Pennsylvania behind only Gateway’s Montae Nicholson (135). Recruited as a defensive back, Henry also was a standout running back for the Quips, rushing for more than 5,000 yards in his high school career.

Defensive backfield coach Tony Gibson played a big role in the recruitment.

“It seemed like when I talked to him, a whole bunch of stress came off my shoulders,” Henry said. “It felt like home talking with him. I didn’t have that feeling at Pitt.”

WVU is also expecting to sign three-star recruits Daejuan Funderburk, DB, Friendship Collegiate Academy, Washington, D.C.; Jamie Herr, OL, Eastern Christian Academy, Elkton, Md.; Jacob McCrary, WR, Coral Reef, Miami; Jaylon Myers, DB, Hutchinson, Kan., C.C.; Tyree Owens, DE, Oviedo, Fla; Lamar Parker, WR, Booker T. Washington, Miami; Xavier Preston, LB, Jensen Beach, Fla.; Walter Rauterkus, OL, Avon, Ohio; and Justin Scott, OL, Pierce C.C., Woodland Hills, Calif.

Two-star recruits Amanii Brown, OL, Morgantown High, and Yodny Cajuste, OL, Miramar, Fla., also are expected to sign.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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