MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind after paying way more attention to this latest NFL draft than ever before: Don't you just have to feel equal parts enthused and sorry for Geno Smith?Enthused because among the three West Virginia players drafted, Smith finds himself automatically thrust into the most perplexing and surely the most high-profile quarterback situation in the entire NFL.And sorry because among the three West Virginia players drafted, Smith finds himself automatically thrust into the most perplexing and surely the most high-profile quarterback situation in the entire NFL.Even when the Jets released Tim Tebow on Monday, it just made things more bizarre for Smith. At least with Tebow around there was a lightning rod to divert some of the over-the-top tabloid coverage away from the new rookie. Now the microscope is firmly trained on just Smith and Mark Sanchez.Then again, if Smith succeeds there's no better place to do it than New York. If Sanchez was worth signing to an almost $60 million contract without ever proving himself, what would a guy be worth if he did succeed?Meanwhile, as New York braces for that storm, out in St. Louis they're just absolutely giddy. Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey aren't walking into a soap opera. In fact, the receiver-starved Rams can hardly contain themselves over their good fortune."We're going to lobby with the league to see if we can play with more than one ball,'' coach Jeff Fisher said. "We're going to need more than one ball."nn
So how do West Virginia's most recent coaches compare in producing NFL talent? Glad you asked.Here are the raw numbers. In 21 seasons, Don Nehlen recruited 54 players whose names were called on a draft day. In seven seasons, Rich Rodriguez recruited 16. In three years, Bill Stewart recruited four.
Before jumping to any conclusions there, though, consider a few extenuating circumstances.Nehlen had six players drafted who would not have been picked this year because what was once a 12-round draft is now just seven rounds. Those six were picked after No. 254 overall, which was the last pick of this year's draft.Stewart's slate isn't yet clean. The fourth- and fifth-year players on this year's team were brought in on his watch.The third-year players still around (redshirt sophomores and true juniors) also came in while Stewart was still the head coach in February of 2011. In the case of that class, however, some were recruited by Stewart and his assistants and others by then-new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.And, of course, Holgorsen's slate is to date blank. He hasn't been around long enough to produce a draft-eligible player (three years removed from high school).
So with all that in mind, take these numbers with a grain of salt: Nehlen averaged 2.57 drafted players per season, Rodriguez 2.29 and Stewart 1.33.But if you subtract the six Nehlen players that would not have been drafted when Rodriguez was coaching, both produced exactly the same average number of draft picks per season - 2.29.Now, if even three of the remaining Stewart-era recruits wind up being picked, his average will exceed that of both his predecessors (2.33 or greater).That's probably not a particularly valid comparison given the small sample size of just three recruiting classes, but it's nonetheless noteworthy given the criticism Stewart generally endured.nn
Finally, can we dispense with all of the notations and quirky little tidbits about how many WVU players were drafted in the first round, in the first three rounds, all of that?
Not that it isn't interesting, mind you. In the days leading up to the draft there was constant talk of the possibility of West Virginia having two players taken in the first round for the first time. When it didn't happen, the talk shifted to how rare it was that the Mountaineers had three taken in the first three rounds (first time since 2000, sixth time ever).Remember, though, all of that is relative and very deceiving. It has as much to do with the number of teams in the league at the time of those drafts as anything else.For instance, in 1956 WVU had five players taken in the first four rounds of the draft - Joe Marconi (1st round), Bruce Bosley (2nd), Sam Huff (3rd), Fred Wyant (3rd) and Bobby Moss (4th). There were only 12 teams in the NFL, though. Today that would have translated into three first-rounders (Marconi at No. 6 overall, Bosley at No. 15, Huff at No. 30) and two second-rounders (Wyant at No. 36 and Moss at No. 49).That was easily the most impressive draft of Mountaineers. Two years later, Chuck Howley (No. 7), Larry Krutko (No. 20) and Joe Nicely (No. 35) went in Rounds 1, 2 and 3, respectively. This year that would have been two firsts and the third pick of the second.Even as recently as 1990, West Virginia would have had two first-rounders under the current lineup of 32 teams. But Reggie Rembert's No. 28 pick (after Renaldo Turnbull at No. 14) was the third choice of the second round that year. Mike Fox was also taken in the second round at No. 51.That said, the positioning of the three WVU players drafted this year still ranks among the best ever. Only four other WVU classes have produced three players collectively drafted higher (judged by simply adding their draft positions) - 1956 (Nos. 6, 15 and 30), 1958 (Nos. 7, 20 and 35), 1990 (Nos. 14, 28 and 51) and 2000 (No. 27 Anthony Becht, No. 47 Jerry Porter and No. 50 Barrett Green).But by comparison, in that 1956 draft, Austin would have gone in the first round, Smith in the fourth and Bailey in the eighth. So let's cease with comparisons that have anything to do with rounds.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.