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February 1, 2012

Mountaineers set for signing day

MORGANTOWN — The most over-hyped, yet most important day of the year arrives today in college football as teams across the nation gaze into that hazy crystal ball of recruiting and sign their future.

Signing prospects out of high school is as much a gamble as rolling the dice at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, for as unpredictable as are those cubes on the green felt table are high school kids of 18 or 19 on the green athletic fields of America.

They have been scouted and wooed before they are physically or emotionally mature, before they have been turned loose on a college campus with all the temptations and regulations they will face, and a coach must predict how they will perform not only tomorrow and the day after tomorrow but five years down the road.

Mistakes are made. Blue-chippers turn to dust, and players you never expect to develop become stars.

Sometimes you hit big time like West Virginia did on Tavon Austin and Geno Smith; sometimes they end up being Daquan Hargrett or Gino Gradkowski.

West Virginia is expecting a big class. They already have signed and enrolled five players, quarterback Ford Childress, defensive lineman Imarjaye Albury, safety Karl Joseph, wide receiver Jordan Thompson and safety Sean Walters.

That was because their numbers were down, and if you do it between semesters you can count them against last year’s class.

This is coach Dana Holgorsen’s first recruiting class and comes off the high of a record-shattering 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson that should pay dividends in recruiting. He is expected to sign at least 26 prospects and is eager to do it, as he told an Internet site which he granted an interview to during a recent WVU basketball game while snubbing the rest of the media.

“Recruiting is a year-long process,” Holgorsen said. “Some of the guys have been committed a long time, and some of the guys are in here right now. We’re ready to put some closure on it.”

Probably the two top prospects expected to sign are physical wide receiver Deontay McManus, a four-star prospect out of Baltimore Dunbar High, the same school that gave Tavon Austin to WVU, and Bradon Napoleon, a defensive back out of St. Peter’s Prep in New Jersey. Is the son of former WVU player Eugene Napoleon, a running back on the undefeated 1988 team.

In addition to the others expected to sign who have been identified for months on the recruiting websites, WVU is involved in a number of highly ranked players who have not yet given verbals to any school.

Among them are the likes of wide receiver Deaysean Rippy of Sto-Rox High in Pennsylvania, that being an interesting recruiting battle involving WVU, Pitt and Arizona, where they are fighting Rich Rodriguez.

Another top receiver, Joel Caled of Clover High in Virginia, is said to be in the mix as is linebacker Eric Kinsey out of Miami Northwestern. WVU has a verbal from his high school teammate, defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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