Holgorsen starting to get more out of junior-college talent
One day after West Virginia beat Kansas State, 17-16, to stay undefeated, the Mountaineers, as is their custom, announced their weekly award winners on offense, defense and special teams.
And after WVU's biggest win this season, their offensive and defensive players of the game — running back Justin Crawford and safety Kyzir White — were first-year junior college transfers.
As West Virginia heads into its second bye week and coach Dana Holgorsen prepares for a weekend of recruiting, he sees their performances as a signpost.
“We probably ought to go out this weekend recruiting for a few more of junior-college guys,” Holgorsen said. “We're on a little bit of a hot streak as far as that's concerned.”
Although listed as the backup to senior Rushel Shell, Crawford has broken out as West Virginia's leader in rushing yards (331) and carries (60) through four games.
Meanwhile, White, younger brother of former WVU star receiver Kevin White and current Mountaineer wideout Ka'Raun White, seized the starting job at spur safety out of camp. He is third on the team in tackles (24) and second in tackles for loss (three).
Crawford and White have contributed as much as they have despite facing a steeper learning curve after arriving on campus too late to participate in spring practice. The story is the same for cornerback Elijah Battle, who got his first major playing time Saturday and earned high praise from defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who called him his defensive MVP of the game.
Holgorsen routinely draws some of his best players from the junior-college ranks, but the current crop's quick adjustment has surprised him.
“It's very unusual,” Holgorsen said. “It's not unusual, for Elijah Battle, for it to not make sense until now. (Mark) Glowinski needed that redshirt year. Ka'Raun White is playing pretty well for us, but he wasn't this guy a year ago. Kevin (White) surely wasn't this guy his first year. Mario (Alford) didn't make a play for six weeks. It takes those guys time.”
Holgorsen seems to be convinced he needs to dip further into the junior-college talent pool. Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline made a recruiting trip to Mississippi three weeks ago to scout junior colleges and came away with two commitments: Jalen Harvey and Quandarious Qualls, defensive linemen from Justin Crawford's old school, Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Holgorsen and his staff plan to again look at junior colleges this weekend, and while WVU is in an evaluation period in terms of recruiting, he plans on at least being seen by the players he wants.
“I feel like we have some momentum in recruiting finally,” Holgorsen said. “You can't go out there and talk to them, but you can be visible, talk to them on the phone, text message with them, do the Twitter thing. Just being visible and supporting guys you want at games is important.”
David Statman is a freelance writer.