The Bottom Line
By Bill Nestor, Sports Editor
This past weekend provided a glimpse into the future for Mountaineer football fans as signing day has come and gone.
It also provided a missed opportunity for the men’s basketball team.
At this time a year ago, West Virginia University Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen was on the hot seat with all sorts of pressure and rumors swirling about. A 10-3 record and a nice contract extension (five year-18.6 million dollars plus incentives) have allowed Holgorsen and Mountaineer nation to focus on incoming talent.
National signing day was this past Wednesday. It is a day that rivals Christmas morning for die hard football fans. Instead of opening gifts, future potential playmakers are divulging their playing destinations. Prior to signing day, there is an excitement in the air that grows until the smoke settles and final locations are discovered. But wait … the fun doesn’t stop there! Fans have to know where their team is ranked in comparison to the other top programs in the country. Alabama, Florida State, USC, Ohio State, Penn State, Clemson, Washington, and Oklahoma are among the tops from year to year and that remains the same.
West Virginia landed a majority of three star players and despite lower rankings from the majority of scouting services, filled their needs with an infusion of “quick fix” players. Due to the departure of several key players from last year’s campaign, Holgorsen and company went the JUCO rout. These players are more apt to step in and produce immediately, if not sooner, which is exactly what is needed in Touchdown City.
There was some in state talent that elected to stay home. Morgantown’s Maverick Wolfley, Fairmont’s Darius Stills, Charleston’s Derrek Pitts, and Shinnston’s Chase Riley all decided to take their talents to WVU.
Wolfley and Stills are legacies as both of their fathers were standout Mountaineers from days past. Wolfley is a hardnosed throwback type of player that has led the Mohigans in several statistical categories. Stills has that rare combination of strength and speed. He was a major part of the Polar Bears run to the Class AA Championship game where they fell just short to Mingo Central.
Derrek Pitts starred at South Charleston. Pitts joins a large group of defensive backs that could help the program immediately.
Lincoln’s Chase Riley signed as a preferred walk on and he could be a surprise gift to Mountaineer fans. Riley has the physical tools and attributes necessary to produce on the next level. He is the kind of player that could flourish in Holgorsen’s system.
The bottom line is that this recruiting class cannot be fairly judged until their playing days are over and their contributions counted. From now unto then, it will be fun watching their process and counting their production.
At this time of year, losses are expected from time to time. However, some of them hurt more than others and this past Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State really hurt.
The Mountaineers, chasing their first Big 12 regular season championship, received a golden opportunity as the two teams they were chasing (Kansas and Baylor) had both lost earlier in the day. The Cowboys rode into town with a 14-8 record but had won four consecutive contests.
The Mounties were in position to claim the win, tied at 64 with 5:30 remaining in the game. A key call and a sway in momentum allowed the Cowboys to claim the 82-75 win. The loss was devastating and hard to swallow at the same time, but this team needs a quick recovery. There are several big games remaining and their NCAA seeding is riding on the next several weeks. No time to look back now; just recover and head back to the court.
That will do it for now. Until next week … take care and God Bless!