During the first couple of weeks of December, the West Virginia football team’s coaching staff spent a lot of time visiting top targets (and current commits) in the Class of 2020.

Still, there were only a couple dozen players that fit that criteria, and a lot of time for the staff to recruit. So, like everyone else in the country, the staff turned one eye to the Class of 2021 and extended a bunch of new offers to top targets in that class. Not surprisingly, many of them were invited to the All-American Underclassmen Combine in San Antonio this week and put on quite a display.

Norfolk, Virginia (Lake Taylor) star Malik Newton was named the top running back of the event by 247Sports after showcasing quickness and athleticism at an elite level despite being 6-foot and 225 pounds. He received an offer from running backs coach Chad Scott back in the fall, and Newton says Scott “is one of the coolest coaches ever.” That connection has the Mountaineers in position for an unofficial visit two weekends from now.

Council Bluffs, Iowa’s (Lewis Central) Thomas Fidone was named the top tight end at the event. The 247Sports four-star prospect received an offer from the Mountaineers back in October, courtesy of inside receivers and tight ends coach Travis Trickett.

“I know that they have a great culture and great fan base and a good program,” Fidone said at the time of the offer. He also said that he and his family were working through “a very busy schedule” to get Morgantown onto his list of visits. LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame and more have since offered him.

The top overall performer, per 247Sports, was Fairfax, Virginia (Robinson) offensive lineman Tristan Leigh. The four-star prospect claimed an offer from the Mountaineers very early in the process and even visited campus, but he will be a tough pull as Alabama, LSU, Penn State and others have since entered the picture.

Of course, this was an underclassmen combine, not just the Class of 2021. Westerville South High School (Ohio) wide receiver Kaden Saunders, a 2022 recruit who is in the middle of his sophomore year in high school, took home the offensive most valuable player, and may be the player West Virginia has the best chance with that shined at the event.

Saunders has visited Morgantown at least three times in the last year, including two games and a Junior Day last spring. He has enjoyed each of his trips, and says that a close family that takes him on his visits has strong WVU ties. Cecil Doggett played defensive back for the Mountaineers in the early 1990s, and he married former WVU gymnast Becky Doggette (nee Morrison), and their daughter was a gymnast that graduated from WVU in 2017. They aren’t pressuring him to go to West Virginia, but they’ve certainly put in a good word.

The All-American games and combines are now over, and the dead period will come to an end in a couple weeks. Once that is lifted, the staff will get back on the road trying to close the 2020 class. And staying strong with these elite, younger prospects.