WVU filling holes on team

ORLANDO, Fla. —  With National Letter of Intent Signing Day slated for Feb. 1, West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff has been busy since the Mountaineers’ 31-14 loss in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December looking to fill the holes left by a senior class which included two-year starting quarterback Skyler Howard.

The staff has already addressed some of the depletions with the mid-year signings of junior college transfers Hakeem Bailey, a 6-foot-1 cornerback from Iowa Western Community College, Jalen Harvey (6-2, DL, Northwest Mississippi CC), Dominique Maiden (6-5, WR, Riverside City College), Quondarius Qualls (6-2, LB, Northwest Mississippi CC), Ezekiel Rose (6-3, DL, East Mississippi CC), David Sills (6-4, WR, El Camino College), and Kelby Wickline (6-5, OL, Jones County JC).

Also looking to make an early impact on the 2017 team will be high school seniors Tevin Bush, a 5-foot-8 running back from Landry-Walker High School in New Orleans, La., Derrek Pitts (6-2, S, South Charleston HS) and Maverick Wolfley (6-3, FB, Morgantown HS) elected to forego the remainder of their final prep school seasons to be on the roster when the Old Gold and Blue begin spring drills.

Those are the “knowns.”

The “unknowns,” however, are what will determine if Holgorsen’s seventh season in Morgantown has the same measure of success as the 2016 squad which went 10-3 overall and a No. 18 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.

Tops among those unknowns is at signalcaller, where Howard’s sometime erratic play still had more ups than downs during his two-plus seasons under center. And, the expected transfer of redshirt junior William Crest Jr. doesn’t make the task of finding Howard’s replacement any easier.

What will make Crest’s departure easier to absorb will be the anticipated debut of former University of Florida starting quarterback Will Grier, who sat out last season after coming to Morgantown from the Sunshine State, as well as sophomores Chris Chugunov and Cody Saunders.

Grier played in six games, starting five, in his final season at Florida, completing 106 of 161 attempts for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns with only three interceptions while Chugunov got little experience as Howard’s backup after throwing for 6,308 yards and 47 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in high school.

Saunders, who teamed up with Grier to give the Mountaineers’ offensive scout team a solid one-two punch under center, also came to Morgantown with impressive credentials having completed 345 of 601 passes for 4,753 yards and 53 touchdowns and rushing for 2,230 yards and 24 scores on 345 carries.

And, that unit could increase — if necessary — by one with the return of Sills, who was a member of WVU’s Cactus Bowl winning team before electing to leave Morgantown to follow his dream of playing quarterback at the junior college level.

With one weekend of official visits remaining Holgorsen and his staff have already received verbal commitments from 6-foot-3 safety Kenny Robinson from Imani Christian Academy in Pittsburgh, Exree Loe (6-4, CB, Greater Johnstown SHS, Johnstown, Pa.), Tyler Thurmond (6-6, OT, Buford HS, Buford, Ga.), Darius Stills (6-2, DE, Fairmont HS), Ricky Johns (6-3, S, North Penn SHS, Lansdale, Pa.), Michael Harley Jr. (5-10, WR, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Fort Lauderdale. Fl.), Collin Smith (6-0, S, Ligonier Valley HS, Ligonier, Pa.), Eugene Brown (6-0, S, Tucker HS, Tucker, Ga.), and Alec Sinkfield (5-10, WR, American Heritage School, Delray Beach, Fl.).

In addition to those commitments WVU’s coaching staff still has hopes of landing junior college wide receiver Isaac Zico (6-2, Georgia Military) as well as defensive tackle Walter Palmore (6-4, Eastern Arizona JC).

Other prospects still on the staff’s ‘wish list’ include Danny Davis (6-1, WR, Springfield HS, Springfield, Ohio), Adarius Lemons (6-1, RB, Clearwater HS, Clearwater, Fl.), Eric Stokes (6-0, Ath, Eastside HS, Covington, Ga.), Cody Bowes (6-5, OG, Miami Southridge HS, Miami Fl.), Malik Horton (6-3, ILB, Langston Hughes HS, Fairburn, Ga.), Dorian Hall (6-5, Ath, South Broward HS, Hollywood, Fl.), Amaud Willis-Dalton (6-0, OLB, Cypress Ranch HS, Cypress, Tx), Lamonte McDougle (6-1, DT, Deerfield Beach HS, Deerfield Beach, Fl.), Tyriq Ellis (6-0, RB, Howland HS, Warren, Ohio), Kyle Bailey (6-0, OLB, Bremen HS, Bremen, Ga.), Rodney Scott (6-2, WR, Miami Southridge HS, Miami, Fl.), Ahman Ross (5-11, S, The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fl.), Shawn Smith (5-11, WR, Brunswick HS, Brunswick, Ga.), Shakur Brown (6-0, CB, Woodland HS, Stockbridge, Ga.) and Syhiem Simmons (6-1, S, George Washington Carver HS, Birmingham, AL).

Zico and McDougle are expected to be on campus this weekend.

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