Mountaineers Building Strong Georgia Pipeline

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Mountaineers building strong Georgia pipeline
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen speaks during the NCAA college football Big 12 media days in Frisco, Texas, Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Cooper Neill)

As Head Coach Dana Holgorsen and staff continue to navigate the tricky recruiting waters of Big 12 football, the Mountaineers are building a strong Georgia pipeline. These efforts are led by cornerbacks coach Doug Belk, who has proven a valuable member of the staff.

As many Mountaineer fans recall, Holgorsen initially pushed his efforts into the traditional territory with which he was familiar: Texas and Oklahoma. But West Virginia soon learned that the conference brand was not enough. So West Virginia focused on more traditional pipelines. The Mountaineers also captured over half of the in-state Power Five talent.

The Georgia Foundation

Over the last few years, however, West Virginia has turned its focus elsewhere: to the Peach State. Georgia has been a talent-rich recruiting area for years. Over the last three, though, Georgia has produced just under 10% of the total blue-chip talent in each of those recruiting cycles. The remaining three-star talent, which is also abundant, shares the field with the best players available. The resulting competition produces rich talent across all recruiting ranks.

Enter Belk. He hails from Valdosta, a town in southern Georgia with a population of around 55,000. Belk started his coaching career at Valdosta State and then took a graduate assistant position with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He worked under Nick Saban between 2014 and 2016. Ultimately, the Tide earned three straight playoff appearances and won one national championship during Belk’s tenure. During that time, he grew and maintained strong relationships throughout Georgia.

Building the Georgia Pipeline

In his first season with the Mountaineers, Belk’s connections produced quick results. He was lead recruiter for Joshua Norwood, Keith Washington, Oyenmwen Uzebu, Jayce Rogers, and Sam James. Norwood went to high school in Valdosta. So did Rogers. Uzebu hailed from Alpharetta, and James graduated from Richmond Hill.

Indeed, the State of Georgia produced four of Belk’s first five Mountaineer recruits. Norwood was a former four-star signee with Ohio State, and Washington was a former Michigan signee. And both have already produced huge snaps for the Mountaineer defense.

For the 2019 class, Belk added six more recruits, five of whom hail from Georgia. That crop includes Dreshun Miller, the speedy blue-chip cornerback who flipped his commitment from LSU to West Virginia within a week of the Early Signing Period.

In total, West Virginia has signed nine recruits from Georgia the last two years. It’s safe to say, then, that they are building a strong pipeline into the State.

The Future

Fans can expect West Virginia to keep going back to that well, too. In an interview during the Early Signing Period, Holgorsen commented, “Doug (Belk) has a good relationship with a lot of people down there.” Holgorsen added, “We’ve had success with guys there in the past (referring to Adam “Pacman” Jones and Bruce Irvin).” He even called it “as well-coached of a football state as I’ve seen.” And he lamented, “I wish I would have stumbled on it and focused on it earlier.”

As we wrote earlier, Holgorsen told the media after the season opener against Tennessee in Charlotte that the game was “great for recruiting” in North Carolina. He opined, however, that he should have sold the matchup several years ago to the players who would have been playing in that game. It is safe to say that Holgorsen learned the lesson, though. Indeed, the staff’s focus in the Peach State has helped the Mountaineers attract several recruits who could easily be on the field when the Mountaineers take on Florida State in the 2020 season opener in Atlanta.

And given Georgia’s rich football history, the Mountaineers can surely benefit from the strong pipeline.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Where does WVU recruiting of Georgia high school footballers rank when compared to Alabama, Georgia as well as the rest of the SEC? Mr. Knobbe is way too optimistic. If you aren’t getting the five and four star recruits, all that remains are leftovers. Best test of talent is to look at what schools offered a scholarship. If not any offers from the usual top ten, is he talented enough to play in the Big 12.

  2. First of all, I don’t know that anyone can ever truly be too optimistic about how his team may perform in years to come, even if that optimism has minimal tethering to reality.

    That said, I’m not sure where you drew the impression that I was making a comparison to WVU’s inroads into the Peach State and the SEC’s long-established dominance there. West Virginia is not a blue blood, nor does it have the traditional reach into that territory. So, like virtually every other school that is not a traditional power, it finds players that the blue bloods picked over. Every once in a while, though, it nabs a player who didn’t work out with the blue blood or that had plenty of blue blood offers. This year, Cowan from Alabama and Dreshun Miller, who flipped from LSU to WVU, fit in that group (as do a few others). Those are hardly leftovers. And even the ones who are “leftovers” have the blue collar, chip-on-the-shoulder mentality coupled with the experience of playing with and against the four and five star recruits. Nothing wrong with that.

    At any rate, I’m not sure why you want to set up an SEC vs. WVU dichotomy here that isn’t even remotely suggested by the article. Haha

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