CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On Tuesday, I phoned West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck and asked if he'd comment on the Mountaineers' downturn in football.As expected, he declined to comment.The Mountain State masses, however, are restless. Since the departure of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, there's been little for WVU fans to cheer. And even when the three were finishing up, fortunes turned sour.Which obviously points to head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff. How could the talent that whipped Clemson in the Orange Bowl, the talent that rose to a top-five ranking the following season, subsequently fall flat?
It's a valid question. One could also point to poor coaching decisions, like that last week to pass on a field goal attempt. Schemes have been discussed. The level of coaching certainly must rise.The reason: Because WVU's level of competition has risen. For years fans outside of West Virginia have questioned the Mountaineers' record and resume as it competed in the Big East.We're seeing much of that was valid as well. Surely some of WVU's past teams - especially those with Pat White and Steve Slaton - would have fared well in the Big 12. But Connecticut, Syracuse and Rutgers have been replaced by Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Even in a down year for the Big 12, WVU is struggling.These days, a spread offense or novelty scheme isn't going to cut it.
Holgorsen needs better players - period. The left tackle has to handle the defensive end. The cornerback has to handle a receiver. The offensive line has to make a push.It's been head-scratching that Holgorsen, well known for his offensive prowess, hasn't been able to recruit one of the nation's top quarterbacks. It's stunning he hasn't landed a fleet of five-star wideouts.In regard to recruiting as a whole, though, the man does have a difficult task. You know how all of George Strait's exes lived in Texas? So do a very high percentage of college football's recruits.Check out the football rosters at Texas, TCU, Baylor and Texas Tech - all Lone Star schools. They are overflowing with Texas recruits. Tech, WVU's opponent last week, has 78.
Outside of Texas? Oklahoma State has 69 Texas products, almost double its number of Oklahoma recruits. Oklahoma has 45. From Mesquite to Euless, Texas boys play football - serious football, and they fill up Big 12 rosters like Texaco fills up tanks. Even Kansas has 27 and Kansas State 23.Iowa State and WVU have the fewest numbers of Texans, 19 and 11, respectively, in the Big 12.Of course, that makes sense considering geography. But understand that most of the FBS talent comes from three states: Texas, Florida and California, in that order. An SB Nation report showed that those three states produced just under 40 percent of all FBS signees over the past six years. Texas alone produced enough to fill 18 recruiting classes. (The national average class is just over 19 players.)
The report also broke down recruits produced per capita by states. West Virginia produced .18 FBS recruits per 100,000 males, which ranks 40th nationally. The average is 1.5 nationally.States in football tradition-rich states like Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Georgia produce a higher rate of recruits.If you're wondering about Pennsylvania, which WVU recruits heavily, the Keystone State is No. 23 in per capita production at .71. Overall, it ranks No. 8 in total recruits, but the state isn't in the same ballpark as Texas, Florida, California or even Georgia and Ohio.If you check WVU's current depth chart, you'll see six players from Pennsylvania, 10 from Florida, eight from Texas, four from West Virginia and three from both Georgia and New Jersey.So the coaches know where to go. They get it.Now it's time they get them.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.