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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 9:40 p.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's 2013 recruiting class introduced on national signing day offers insight into the new direction the program is headed.

Nine junior college recruits were selected to stabilize the roster while addressing immediate needs created by key personnel losses from last year's 7-6 team.

Elite four-star high-school recruits such as Cleveland Heights wide receiver Shelton Gibson and Ohio four-star linebacker Darrien Howard were signed to solidify the future of the program.

In all, the Mountaineers took a national approach in recruiting 25 players from 15 different states - four from Pennsylvania, three from New Jersey, three from Ohio, three from Georgia, two from Florida and one each from Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, California and West Virginia.

“The thing about this class that stands out is we went to 15 different states to get these guys,” coach Dana Holgorsen said Wednesday. “If you look at what happened last year, it was the surrounding states and down south. One of the things we wanted to focus on this year was getting more kids out of the surrounding states. That is a lot of travel time.”

Holgorsen said WVU's recruiting strategy emphasized targeting multiple pass rushers following the departures of Josh Francis and Terence Garvin, who led the team in sacks last season. To fill that void, the Mountaineers signed Brandon Golson, D'Vante Henry and Dontrill Hyman from the junior college ranks, as well as high school linebackers Al-Rasheed Benton, Marvin Gross, Isaac McDonald and Hodari Christian from McKeesport.

“That position was a need,” Holgorsen said. “You better find defensive linemen that can rush the passer.”

Offense was a team strength in 2012, but WVU is short on playmakers with the departures of receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods. Junior college signees Mario Alford, Ronald Carswell and Kevin White will compete for playing time with high school standouts Daikiel Shorts and Gibson.

Quarterback Chavas Rawlins of Monessesn passed for 1,382 yards and rushed for 613 yards as a senior. Already enrolled at WVU, he's expected to challenge incumbents Paul Millard and Ford Childress as Holgorsen seeks a replacement for school career passing leader Geno Smith.

“He's going to compete,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said about Rawlins. “We don't have any experience really coming back at quarterback.”

At running back, WVU signed one player from junior college (Dreamius Smith) and one from high school (Wendell Smallwood) following the loss of a another skill player, Shawne Alston.

Junior college center Stone Underwood is expected to replace Joe Madsen, who started 50 games at WVU.

“Guys that signed today are guys that want to be here,” said Holgorsen, who indicated that he could still sign more players. “We are going to coach the heck out of them.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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