Since news and results for West Virginia University’s men’s basketball team continue to be less than positive, we’ll hit on a little WVU football this week. The recruiting class is in and has been said to be one of the better classes ever at WVU. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every college football program and with West Virginia’s recent move to the Big 12, recruiting is more important than ever. The second half of 2012 season told us that.
While there is no debate on the importance of recruiting, there are many levels to the way fans follow recruiting. Suffice it to say, yours truly chooses not to get too involved with the ebb and flow of emotions that are associated with the decision making process of 18 year old young men that are being recruited. Plus, no matter how good a class looks on paper, the real proof takes a season or two on the field to assess.
Moving on, shortly after the new recruiting class signed, one of head Coach Dana Holgorsen’s best recruiters, offensive line Coach Bill Bedenbaugh, took the same position at Oklahoma. This could be viewed as a significant loss to the WVU staff, but in the world of college football, these changes are normal, especially when the assistants on staff are desirable.
Previously, quarterbacks Coach Jake Spavital was hired away by Texas A&M. Some WVU fans squawk about losing coaches, even wondering aloud why would a coach make a “lateral” move, reality would suggest that Oklahoma football is regarded more highly than WVU football nationwide. Ditto, Texas A&M, though not with Oklahoma’s pedigree, the Aggies are a hot commodity right now, especially with Heisman Trophy winner Johnnie Manziel returning. Then there is the fact that Bedenbaugh and Spavital are from that part of the country, a factor of some significance.
When Holgorsen came to WVU he brought in guys from the southwestern United States where he had spent his coaching career. While there has been no dialogue I’ve heard from Holgorsen to support this theory, it appears the head coach is adding new staff with an eye on regionalism. Former WVU assistants Lonnie Gallaway and Tony Gibson have been added to the staff.
Holgorsen, with the start of spring practice two weeks away, acted quickly to replace Bedenbaugh with the intriguing hire of Ron Crook. All indications are this is a great hire. Crook is a native of Parkersburg who grew up a WVU fan, but played at West Liberty when he wasn’t recruited by WVU. He was the offensive line coach at Harvard for eight seasons and spent his last two seasons at Stanford coaching tight ends and tackles. Anybody paying attention knows that Stanford has been very good at tight end and along the offensive line in recent years.
“Ron brings many years of outstanding offensive line coaching experience to West Virginia,” Holgorsen said in a statement. “He has helped develop winners at his stops and comes highly recommended. He brings a professional and positive attitude and expects toughness from the players. He has a proven track record as a teacher, coach and recruiter. He is a West Virginia native, who wants to be here, and I look forward to his contribution to our coaching staff.”
In related news, it was with a myriad of emotions that I watched Tavon Austin, Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey perform in the NFL Combine on Sunday. All three made an impact and likely only enhanced their draft value. Austin wowed them all when he ran a 4.25 40 in his first attempt. That time was subsequently made official at 4.34 seconds, but the social media world was buzzing on the result of his hand held times.
Going into the combine there was no published time of Austin ever running the 40. Even people that have seen his speed on the football field suspected that he might have slow times at the combine. Not even close. Now that the NFL personnel know that Austin does indeed have blazing speed to go with obvious football skills, seeing him go in the first round is much more likely now.
Smith has been talked about as the likely first quarterback taken in the upcoming draft and his performance Sunday did not change that discussion, though he is not a lock to be the first taken. He did clock a 4.59 second 40 that was the fastest of the quarterbacks participating, and led to plenty of discussion among WVU fans that wanted to see Smith run the ball more while at WVU. In any case, it looks like there may be two West Virginia players taken in the first round in this year’s draft.
Bailey is sort of an under the radar guy that most seem to think will be there in the third round. That may be correct, because his measurables of 5-10, 193 and a 4.51 second 40 do not usually warrant early round consideration. For the record, Austin’s 5-8, 174 were big concerns that were alleviated with his display of world-class speed. Anyway, if Bailey is taken in the third round or later someone will have gotten a steal.
So, among the thoughts most prominent as I watched the combine was wondering how WVU could go 7-5 with that set of weapons? The answers are obvious and they truly emphasize that football is the ultimate team game.