MORGANTOWN - One recruiting service ranks Dana Holgorsen's second recruiting class as the head football coach at West Virginia University among the Top 30 nationally. Another has the newest Mountaineers in its Top 50. But just like presidential elections, the real proof of how good the Class of 2012 will be won't be known for another four years.
The class includes 26 players-27 if Eric Kinsey follows his verbal and signs with WVU at 7 p.m.-14 on offense and 12 on defense. Five have already enrolled and will participate in spring drills. They include quarterback Ford Childress, wide receiver Jordan Thompson, defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury and safeties Karl Joseph and Sean Walters.
Joining Childress and Thompson on the offensive side of the football are running backs Roshard Burney and Torry Clayton, wide receivers Travares Copeland, Will Johnson, Darreall "Dee" Joyner, Devonte Mathis, Deontay McManus and Devonte Robinson and linemen Mark Glowinski, Tony Matteo, Tyler Orlosky and Adam Pankey.
Defensively, the Mountaineers added linebackers Garrett Hope and Sam Lebbie, cornerbacks Nana Kyeremeh and Brandon Napoleon, safeties Kimlon "K.J." Dillon and Jarrod Harper and linemen Christian Brown, Korey Harris and Noble Nwachukwu.
Making the move to the Big 12 had an immediate impact on recruiting as Holgorsen and his staff pursued more edge rushers to go up against the pass-oriented offenses in the Mountaineers' new conference.
"We want to get some guys that can gain wait and rush off the edge, and maybe be defensive ends," explained the coach.
WVU, which lost longtime defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel as well as Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood after the Mountaineers' Discover Orange Bowl victory over Clemson (70-33), will move from its 3-3-5 stack alignment to a more conventional 3-4 look in the fall.
"It will be some form of a 3-4," said Holgorsen. "But that covers a lot of ground."
Offensively, the Mountaineers appear to be set at quarterback with the return of first-team All-Big East quarterback Geno Smith returning for his senior season. The addition of Childress, who completed 184-of-292 attempts for 3,171 yards and 41 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 10 games as a senior, and sophomore-to-be Paul Millard will allow for some spirited competition for the backup role this spring.
The running back position also appears to have plenty of depth with the return of Dustin Garrison, who will-in all likelihood-miss spring drills while recovering from knee surgery as well as Andrew Buie, Shawn Alston, Ryan Clarke, and former-Parkersburg standout Matt Lindamood.
The status of Vernard Roberts, who missed the bowl game with academic difficulties, won't be known until the spring.
Burney (5-10, 205) rushed for 2,000 yards on 284 carries with 19 touchdowns in 2011 while Clayton (5-9, 195) finished his senior season with 1,108 yards and 15 touchdowns on 168 carries.
Smith and the other quarterbacks will have a plethora of talent to throw the football to as Big East Special Teams Player of the Year Tavon Austin, who caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns, as well as Stedman Bailey (72-1,279, 12 TDs), and Ivan McCartney (49-585, 3 TDs) return.
Looking to break into that group will be Thompson (5-9, 163), who finished 2011 with 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns, Copeland (5-9, 195), Johnson (6-6, 245), Joyner (5-11, 180), Mathis (6-2, 210), McManus (6-1, 209) and Robinson (6-1, 170).
Copeland, who actually played quarterback at Treasure Coast High School, completed 78-of-144 passes for 1,096 yards and 13 touchdowns, but was selected to play wide receiver for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast All-Star Game while Robinson (6-1, 170) hauled in 31 receptions for 950 yards for Village Academy High School in Delray Beach, Fla.
Defensively, the addition of Lebbie (6-2, 215) will help shore up a linebacking corps that lost leading tackler Najee Goode as well as Casey Vance. The DeMatha High School product recorded 79 tackles-15 for loss-and had eight sacks and seven forced fumbles last fall.
Up front the addition of Albury (6-1, 280), Brown (6-3, 290) and Nwachukwu (6-2, 240) will give the Mountaineers some depth in replacing all-Big East performers Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller.
"The new guys coming in it's an advantage to them because they only come in 15 days behind as opposed to being a year behind," said new co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. "The difference between the 3-4 and 4-3 is so small any more. You have to adjust your scheme to what you have on defense."
Returning to the defense will be former-WVU player Steve Dunlap while Holgorsen has added New York Jets outside linebacker coach Mike Smith to the staff. One more position remains to be filled, however, before spring drills begin.