Thursday marked the end of the dead period in recruiting, and the West Virginia University football coaching staff wasted no time doing everything it could to help the future of the program. Whether it was hosting top recruits or visiting them in person or welcoming official visits for top 2020 prospects or Junior Days for the 2021 class, the Mountaineers hit the ground running this past weekend.

Several coaches were out on the road visiting recruits Friday. New linebackers coach Jeff Koonz made his way to Ohio to check out several prospects, while new offensive coordinator/receivers coach Gerad Parker trekked out to Maryland. There, he saw Baltimore (Maryland) Mount Saint Joseph wide receiver Dont’e Thornton.

The 6-foot-5 wideout once was committed to Parker and Penn State, but opened his recruitment several months ago. Thornton, even while committed to Penn State, was already very interested in West Virginia. He visited Morgantown multiple times and put the Mountaineers in an unofficial top group after he opened his recruitment.

Outside linebackers coach Al Pogue made his way down to Alabama to see Evergreen (Alabama) Hillcrest linebacker Eddie Watkins. The 2020 prospect officially visited West Virginia in December, but chose not to sign during the early signing period. The day after his visit from Pogue, Watkins released his top three schools – Arizona, Missouri, and West Virginia.

Coaches also hosted recruits throughout the weekend. The biggest name might have been Orlando (Florida) Jones running back A’Varius Sparrow. A bit undersized at 5-10 and 185 pounds, Sparrow flew under the radar with recruiting until he put on a dominant senior season, gaining more than 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns while playing at the highest level of high school football in the most talent-rich state in the country.

The Mountaineers offered Sparrow last month, and he planned to officially visit in January. Not until last week, though, did he have a date hammered down. It turns out it was this weekend.

The coaches opened their doors to even more recruits Sunday, welcoming numerous 2021 prospects for another Junior Day. Players from Michigan to Georgia and everywhere in between piled into the Puskar Center to tour the facilities, meet the coaches and talk WVU football.

Quarterbacks Will Crowder and Kaiya Sheron were there, and the staff has been in touch with both for quite some time. Four-star running back TreVeyon Henderson made the trek over from Virginia. Offensive lineman Terrence Enos from Michigan visited in his second trip to Morgantown.

The list was almost entirely 2021 recruits. Almost. There was also 2022 athlete Kaden Saunders, one of the top sophomores in the country. The talented wideout had just named Penn State his leader earlier this month before his potential position coach, Parker, came to West Virginia. Saunders had been to Morgantown several times as well and considered the Mountaineers one of his top schools, too.

The staff will be back on the road this week, once more visiting recruits across the country, extending new offers to younger recruits and trying to shore up a couple more commitments for this 2020 class. If the first 72 hours after the contact period started are any indication, it’s going to be an eventful next couple of weeks.

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