Editor's note: As we move toward the February 5 national signing day, the Gazette will be presenting a weekly update or story on the hot topic of football recruiting via Chris Anderson of 247Sports Network. Today is the first installment.
As he spoke with national media on Monday afternoon, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen made one thing clear - recruiting is the life blood of any football program, and he and his staff are focused on improving in that area in order to boost the product on the field.
With 15 commitments, West Virginia has a long way to go before this 2014 class is done. Depending on postseason attrition, the final number of pledges could be anywhere from 20 to 25 on national signing day, set for Feb. 5.
To get Mountaineer fans ready for the "home stretch," here's a breakdown of where recruiting stands at each position.
West Virginia secured the commitment of quarterback William Crest in April, and the four-star prospect has never wavered. He hails from Baltimore's Dunbar High School, which sent Tavon Austin and linebacker Marvin Gross to Morgantown. Crest has led his team to a 9-2 record and accounted for over 25 touchdowns. He is expected to be the lone quarterback taken in this class.
With so much talent returning, the Mountaineers have kept a narrow focus at running back and do not have a commitment at the position. The main target is Hillside (N.C.) running back Donte Thomas-Williams. The four-star prospect has visited Morgantown multiple times and has the Mountaineers in his top two alongside Florida State. He intends to take his official visit to West Virginia in January.
Brandon Powell of Deerfield Beach, Fla., a Miami commitment, officially visited West Virginia and admitted that the rowdy atmosphere left him intrigued by WVU. He will make a "final decision" on signing day.
Demario Richard of Palmdale, Calif., and Dacorius Law of Haines City, Fla., are two other backs that say they will officially visit before making a decision, although no dates have been set.
Ricky Rogers of Gateway, Pa., was the first pledge of the class, committing during last year's season finale against Kansas. He camped for the coaches in the summer and dominated the competition, earning an offer directly after camp ended.
Jacob McCrary (Coral Reef, Fla.) and Lamar Parker (Booker T. Washington in Miami) committed on the same night back in June. McCrary held offers from Alabama, Florida State and more, and has been one of the most vocal commits since joining the class. Parker held offers from Florida State, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, among others. He is the leading receiver for the top-ranked team in the nation, per USAToday.
West Virginia will likely take one more receiver, although it may not come from a traditional "wideout." Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) tight end Darrion Hutcherson visited West Virginia for the Texas game and has WVU at the top of his list. Arkansas, TCU and Auburn are showing interest.
West Virginia has secured five commitments at tackle in this class - Josh Krok, Jamie Herr, Walter Rauterkus, Justin Scott and Sylvester Townes. Herr, Scott and Townes are all scheduled to enroll early, with the latter two coming from the junior college ranks. All hope to fight for a starting tackle spot in 2014.
Amanii Brown is the lone pickup for 2014 at guard. Hailing from Morgantown, Brown received an 87 rating as the nation's 36th-best offensive guard from 247Sports. With a dominant senior season and impressive camp performance at WVU, his stock continues to rise.
Offensive line recruiting is likely finished. Townes is still taking official visits to other programs (Kentucky two weekends ago, South Florida this past weekend) though, and if he were to flip, keep an eye on Holmes (Miss.) C.C. offensive tackle Talbot Buys.
West Virginia holds one commitment from Oviedo (Fla.) defensive end Tyree Owens. The three-star prospect chose the Mountaineers over 20 other offers, including Georgia Tech and Virginia.
Highland (Kan) C.C. defensive tackle Joe Keels, a four-star commit to Wisconsin, will be visited by assistant coach Erik Slaughter on Thursday, and he has tentative plans to visit Morgantown. Globe Institute (N.Y.) defensive end Jihad Ward will be officially visiting West Virginia on Dec. 6 and says the Mountaineers are part of his top four, along with Tennessee, South Florida and Washington. New Mexico Military Institute defensive end Edmond Boatengwants to visit for the Iowa State game next weekend. He is ranked as the top junior college defensive end by 247Sports and holds offers from Miami, Arizona and everywhere in between.
Aliquippa (Pa.) defensive tackle Jaleel Fields is also on the list. He has visited multiple times and WVU, Pittsburgh and Purdue make up his top group.
Edward Muldrow of Copiah-Lincoln, Miss., highlights the linebacker corps for the 2014 class. The Georgia native signed to play for South Carolina out of high school but elected to transfer. After two years at the junior college, Mudlrow committed to West Virginia over offers from Oregon, Tennessee, Arizona State and others. He plans to enroll in January.
Springfield (Ohio) linebacker Davonte James, a four-star on 247Sports, committed in August and will line up on the interior for the Mountaineers. He held offers from Illinois, Georgia Tech and more. Meanwhile, Jensen Beach (Fla.) linebacker Xavier Preston was recruited to play the spur position and chose WVU over Louisville, Illinois and Iowa State, among others. He committed on Halloween night after officially visiting West Virginia the previous month.
With three commitments, the coaching staff could very well be done at the position.
West Virginia holds a commitment from Hutchinson (Kan) C.C. superstar Jaylon Myers, arguably the top junior college cornerback in the country. He had eight interceptions through his team's first eight games and was named his conference's defensive player of the year. He held offers from Georgia, Florida and more.
Aliquippa (Pa.) athlete Dravon Henry is not only the top remaining target at defensive back, but potentially any position. The four-star recruit holds offers from virtually every school in the country, including Alabama, Ohio State and more, but is down to the two local schools, West Virginia and Pittsburgh. He has visited both campuses multiple times and says he will officially visit both again in January before making a decision on signing day.
Safeties DaeJuan Funderburk and Raymon Minor, from D.C. and Virginia, respectively, both have West Virginia in their top groups and plan to officially visit Morgantown before making a decision.
At the junior college level, Highland (Kan.) C.C. safety Pat Martin plans to officially visit the first weekend of December. A one-time Tennessee signee, Martin ended up at Highland and is looking for a fresh start, and WVU may very well be his final destination.
For more coverage of West Virginia sports and recruiting, visit www.eersports.com.