Poca vs Weir 2 (copy)

Poca’s Bronson Skeens pulls down a pass for a big gain in the Class AA playoffs against Weir last fall. Skeens was part of West Virginia State University’s signing class announced Wednesday.

The University of Charleston’s football team climbed back to a level it was accustomed to last season. West Virginia State’s football team reached heights it never had before. Both the Golden Eagles and Yellow Jackets hope the players they signed Wednesday will help keep that momentum rolling.

UC signed 34 players to its 2020 class, while the WVSU came out of Wednesday with 30 new players. Both teams made sure to address crucial needs on their rosters.

West Virginia State went into the last game of the 2019 season still in the hunt for a Mountain East Conference title. The Yellow Jackets’ seven conference wins were a program first and their third straight winning season was something that hadn’t happened for 40 years.

WVSU coach John Pennington said the top need for the roster was on the offensive line. He fixed that by signing nine offensive linemen to this class, including three from West Virginia — Shady Spring’s Ian McKinney, Wheeling Park’s Dustin Vansickle and Point Pleasant’s Jacob Muncy. Muncy earned Class AA All-State honorable mention in 2019.

“That’s where it all starts,” Pennington said. “Every year, that’s a pretty big need. We can’t really go anywhere if we don’t have those guys in place.”

The Yellow Jackets also needed to replace three graduated wide receivers and signed six there, including mid-year pickup Bronson Skeens from Poca. Skeens made the 2018 Class AA All-State first team at defensive back. Pennington liked the combination of height and speed that the 2020 receiver class brings.

Defensively, the Yellow Jackets needed pass rushers and Pennington brought in three. The defense wasn’t losing much for next season, but that was one category State needed to shore up. State was next to last in the MEC last season with 15 sacks.

“The one thing we really need that we don’t have on campus right now, in my mind, is an elite pass rusher,” Pennington said.

Charleston finished last season at 8-3, a far cry from the Golden Eagles’ 3-8 season of 2016. One of those wins came against Football Championship Subdivision team Valparaiso. UC lost some to graduation, but not a ton when it came to on-field production.

“We lost 18 seniors, but at the end of the day, only five of those kids started for us,” UC coach Pat Kirkland said. “So it wasn’t a situation where we lost a lot of kids who had a lot of playing time.”

The big loss will be quarterback Brant Grisel, who threw for 3,117 yards and 27 touchdowns. Kirkland likes the players he has in the QB room now — Guy Myers and Javonte Howard — and signed McGwire Albert out of Shelby, Ohio.

The Golden Eagles loaded up on defensive backs in this signing class, inking seven.

“At safety, we added some guys I think we can play for us,” Kirkland said. “Our corners are all going to be seniors, so we needed some guys we could bring in and develop for a year. But I thought we needed one or two safeties.”

WVSU also picked up a quarterback, Class AAA All-State first-teamer Alex Dunlevy from Wheeling Park.

As far as local prospects, UC signed Man linebacker Brock Muncy and Winfield defensive lineman Kadin Jarrouj. State announced the signings of Skeens and Man receiver Quentin Moody.

Contact Derek Redd at 304-348-1712 or derek.redd@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.