West Virginia Mountaineers: The Truth About In-State Recruiting

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File Photo: MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 18: West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Recently, West Virginia fans have circled wagons around the idea that the Mountaineers do a poor job at recruiting in-state talent. Unfortunately, in the era of social media, we can be quick to rally around an idea without determining its merit first. The concept that West Virginia fares poorly at attracting in-state recruits is one such idea. Therefore, we present a detailed look at the truth about in-state recruiting in West Virginia since Head Coach Dana Holgorsen’s arrival.

The Method

As we wrote here, there is a direct correlation between the highest levels of success in big-time college football and the level of talent a school attracts. While recruiting an abundance of highly-ranked talent, without more, does not necessarily lead a team to victories, the absence of highly-ranked recruits does indeed limit the opportunities for success.

As a result, when evaluating recruits, we generally look at players earning three-star rankings or above as those most likely to earn a scholarship at a school in a Power Five Conference. When looking at West Virginia’s in-state prep talent since Holgorsen’s first recruiting class, we, therefore, look exclusively at this level and above.

When examining this talent, we look at each recruiting class year, identify the prospect by composite score (from the 247Sports database), and identify the eventual school to which each prospect committed. Names are excluded to avoid implications about the players, positive or negative. Where a player did not sign a letter of intent with a Power Five school, the prospect is italicized.

The Results

The following chart identifies each of the recruits from the state of West Virginia beginning with the 2012 recruiting class and continuing through the 2018 recruiting class.

Class Year Composite Score School
2018 .9467 WVU
2018 .8368 WVU
2018 .8143 Toledo
2017 .8840 UNC
2017 .8721 WVU
2017 .8610 Tennessee
2017 .8539 LSU
2017 .8510 WVU
2017 .8488 Louisville
2017 .8249 WVU
2016 .8261 N/A
2016 .8243 WVU
2016 .8111 N/A
2016 .8106 WVU
2015 .8705 WVU
2015 .8413 Maryland
2015 .8191 WVU
2014 .8371 WVU
2013 .8706 UNC
2013 .8098 WVU
2013 .7993 Charlotte
2012 .8109 Iowa

 

West Virginia has produced a total of 22 players that have earned a composite score of 3-stars or above since the 2012 recruiting class.

The next chart breaks the totals into two categories. The first shows the number and percentage of recruits earning the requisite composite score that have committed to West Virginia. The second shows the number of those recruits who ultimately committed to a Power Five program that committed to West Virginia.

Total to WVU Total P-5 Players to WVU
11/22 11/18
50% 61%

 

Since Holgorsen arrived in Morgantown, the West Virginia Mountaineers have successfully recruited 11 (or 50%) of the 3-star or above prep recruits that played high school football in West Virginia. For those who committed to Power Five programs, the Mountaineers successfully recruited 11 of the 18 (or 61%).

Those numbers alone suggest that West Virginia does a much better job than some suggest at identifying and successfully recruiting players from West Virginia that may succeed at the Power Five level. That does not, of course, mean that West Virginia has never misjudged talent or failed to attract it. Clearly, it has. But these numbers align favorably with the numbers in other states.

Other States’ Results

For example, Ohio produces an average of about 80 recruits per year that meet or exceed the 3-star threshold. Of those 80, just over 50% of them commit to a Power Five program. And only 5 to 8% of this caliber player commit to Ohio State in an average year. Of the Power Five commits, between 12 and 15% commit to Ohio State.

Alabama produces roughly the same number of 3-star or better recruits per year as Ohio does, and just under half of those recruits ultimately commit to a Power Five program. Of the total, between 12 and 15% commit to either Alabama or Auburn, and, of the Power Five commits, between 25 and 28% commit to one of those two schools.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, produces an average of about 30 recruits per year meeting the 3-star threshold, and just over 65% of those recruits commit to a Power Five program. Of the total, between 42 and 45% commit to either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. Of the Power Five commits, between 56 and 60% commit to one of those schools.

Like Oklahoma, Arizona produces around thirty 3-star or better recruits per year. Similarly, like Oklahoma, just over 65% of those Arizona prep recruits commit to a Power Five program. But Arizona recruits favor their in-state universities far less, with only 25% of the total going to either Arizona or Arizona State and only 40% of the Power Five commits attending one of those schools.

The Truth about In-State Recruiting in West Virginia

West Virginia historically has produced few 3-star recruits. Nonetheless, over 80% of its 3-star or better recruits sign letters of intent with Power Five schools. And the Mountaineers have largely been responsible for this by signing over 60% of the Power Five commitments. As demonstrated, this number compares favorably to other states.

Indeed, West Virginia continues to grow as a football state. Its prep talent is finally being recognized nationally in larger numbers. As more of that talent succeeds in Power Five programs, whether at West Virginia or elsewhere, the next group of home-grown athletes are given closer looks by scouts. And the prep athletes benefit from this exposure.

Through this cycle, however, West Virginia has missed on some of that in-state talent. And as the talent pool has grown, West Virginia has upset some families and fans by looking over some in-state talent. As the in-state talent grows, that will happen more often.

From the Mountaineers’ perspective, recent recruiting rule changes create an increasingly complex numbers game. The Mountaineers must maintain depth and build and perpetuate enough pipelines to feed sufficient talent into the program. If it fails at either function, fans will call for heads. As that process plays out, however, fans should recognize that they cannot have it both ways. For West Virginia to be a big program, it must act like one. And that means it will sometimes ignore solid in-state talent.

Similarly, as the state itself offers more high-level prep talent, the Mountaineers will miss on more of those players. And that fact, simply, speaks well both of the caliber of West Virginia’s in-state prep talent and of the quality of the flagship’s football program.

Photo Credit:

File Photo: MORGANTOWN, WV – NOVEMBER 18: West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

3 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s face it. Dana screwed the pooch with Ryan Switzer and everyone knows it. That has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
    Now, Ross and Locklear both wanted to go somewhere else. There wasn’t much that could be done about that.
    But, going forward, Dana needs to at least ACT like he’s more interested in looking at the in-state prospects.

  2. This article, while being a a good qualitative analysis, has 2 major flaws.

    1. The recruiting rankings themselves are flawed, in both evaluation and fit. What a site might list as a 2 star, might actually be a 3 star(and I don’t blame them there are thousands of kids to evaluate) and then that 3 stars might be a 5 star for the scheme of a certain school. I.e. pat white( I know he was an out of state kid) but he was under evaluated and a perfect fit for WVU 05-08.

    2. mentality. When trying to create a culture in a program you need kids that have always dreamed of wanting to play for a program. That permeates a locker room, even if that kid isn’t a star player. Anytime WVU plays Pitt, the reporters ask the local talent what this rivalry meant to them growing up and so on. Its one thing to be a good leader and good example, it’s another to be fighting for and accomplishing your dream; that radiates toughness and admiration in a locker room.

  3. Mitch, remember that Ryan Switzer’s class was Coach Holgorsen’s second recruiting class (and his first one was marred early by the botched coach-in-waiting scenario). Holgorsen was learning on the job. Did he miss a great in-state prospect with Switzer? Yes. But I don’t think as many people had a truly “bad taste” in their mouths as a result.

    Caleb, fair enough. Recruiting rankings have their flaws. But if you read the articles I’ve linked in here and look at my article on Talent Development under Holgorsen, you’ll see that there is indeed a strong correlation between the composite rankings and player success both in the college level and in terms of getting drafted into the NFL. Teams without significant levels of highly-ranked talent simply don’t win at the same level as those that do. Yes, those that get good talent don’t always win. But that doesn’t negate that these rankings, while flawed, have done a fair job at predicting which players and teams can be expected to rise to the top at the end of the season.

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