West Virginia football enhances its Miami pipeline
By John Harris
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013, 11:47 p.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Students at Miramar High School in suburban Miami proudly wear West Virginia athletic gear without a second thought. Credit the Mountaineers' football team — in no small part due to the success of Miramar alums Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey.
Smith, WVU's career passing leader, is projected to be the first quarterback selected in next week's NFL Draft. Bailey, WVU's career leader in receiving yards and touchdown catches, is expected to be drafted in the first three rounds.
“A lot of kids walk around school wearing West Virginia gear,” said Miramar football coach Damon Cogdell, a former West Virginia football player who encouraged Smith and Bailey to attend WVU. “I would say it's because of me pushing them that way.”
New running backs coach JaJuan Seider, a former WVU teammate with Cogdell, wants to maximize the Mountaineers' recruiting success in South Florida.
Six current WVU players are from South Florida, including two other Miramar graduates — redshirt senior receiver Terrence Gourdine and redshirt freshman receiver Devonte Mathis.
“We've got to build on what's going on right now,” said Seider, a former WVU graduate assistant who returns to his alma mater following three years as Marshall's running backs coach and recruiting coordinator. “Geno's plastered all over down there. Stedman. Tavon (Austin). Everybody knows about West Virginia. We've just got to keep it going.”
Saturday's annual Gold-Blue football game at Milan Puskar Stadium offers a self-scouting opportunity for Seider, whose ability to maintain current relationships with high school coaches and players in South Florida, in addition to building new ones, makes him appealing to WVU coach Dana Holgorsen.
“In hiring guys, it is a combination of wanting to be in West Virginia, being the best fit (for) a position coach and being a great recruiter,” Holgorsen said. “From a recruiting standpoint, it is an added bonus that JaJuan is really good at recruiting South Florida because he met all three of the criteria I was looking for.”
Seider recently explained his recruiting philosophy, one that helped Marshall sign South Florida products Rakeem Cato, the 2012 Conference USA Player of the Year, and defensive back A. J. Leggett, who was recruited by Alabama, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Tennessee and Ohio State.
“The biggest thing with a South Florida kid — whether it's a coach or a recruit — it's all about trust,” said Seider, a native of Belle Glade, Fla. “If they don't trust you, you're going to have a hard time. If they trust you, they'll go through the wall for you.
“Last year, I signed A.J. Leggett,” Seider added. “He was the top cornerback in the country, could have went anywhere. We beat Alabama and Tennessee at the end. Nobody thought he was going to make it (academically) — they didn't realize he never took the (ACT). He took the test the first time, got a 23, and was eligible.”
Seider's ties with South Florida coaches Cogdell and Miami Jackson's Antonio Brown — they were all teammates at WVU — should also enhance his ability to successfully recruit that area.
“We speak all the time,” said Cogdell, who recently spoke at a WVU coaching clinic and promises to send Miramar quarterback Nick Jeanty to a Mountaineers football camp this summer.
“Antonio (Brown) is doing a good job and he's getting a lot of good players,” Seider said. “That's going to be another place (for WVU). He's real loyal to the program, too, a guy we need to get back involved with the program.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.
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