While West Virginia’s transition to the Big 12 was being speculated, analyzed, and eventually finalized, Mountaineer fans often tabbed recruiting territory as one of the biggest potential changes.
Sure, WVU will now have a better shot at snaring recruits from Texas, one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country.
But, I say this: West Virginia won’t have to change their recruiting tactics too much, and here’s why.
Much of recruiting is based on geography. A lot of recruits try to go at least relatively close to home, so their family and friends can watch them play on Saturdays.
That is why I don’t really see WVU reeling in a bunch of Texas and Oklahoma blue chippers—despite the fact that the Mountaineers will be travelling to the region 4-6 times per year.
Even if the Mountaineers can solidify themselves as one of the top programs in the Big 12, those kids who grew up watching the Red River Rivalry are still going to want to become Longhorns and Sooners.
Yes, West Virginia will certainly sign more players from Big 12 country and it may occasionally land a big fish or two from the Lone Star State.
But, WVU is now in a quite unique position in which they can still pull players from fertile grounds closer to Morgantown like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area, just as they have in the past, while branching out further south as well.
Just look at the Mountaineers’ current commits in the 2012 class: Three hail from Pennsylvania, while the fourth is from New Jersey.
As West Virginia gains exposure in the south, you can expect the number of commits from Texas to rise, but meanwhile, WVU can still use its local pipelines to pull in recruits from the east coast.
Recruits' travelling parties know where they will be heading for games in that case: Morgantown. But, recruits' families in the south will be all over the place. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, even Iowa.
Along with keeping up appearances on the east coast, WVU should continue to draw from its established reputation in the Sunshine State.
There are currently 20 Mountaineers listed on the roster that call Florida home.
Many Florida recruits know about WVU and see Fla. guys like Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Brodrick Jenkins succeed in the Mountain State, which certainly helps the cause.
Now, the mostly new West Virginia coaching staff will be able to use their ties to the Texas/Oklahoma area to add yet another territory to pull recruits from.
Add all of that up and you have WVU consistently recruiting almost half the country geographically.
The final reason I don’t see the Mountaineers becoming a blue chip-inking force in Texas is the fact that they don’t need to.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen has proved that his offensive system doesn’t require a prototypical NFL quarterback like Andrew Luck, or an electric dual-threat QB like Robert Griffin or Pat White to produce touchdowns in bunches.
At the same time, he has proven that big time players like receiver Justin Blackmon can thrive in his system and do things like winning the Biletnikoff Award—twice.
So I expect the WVU coaching staff to do much of what they’ve been doing to this point:
Use their insane number-generating system to pull in the occasional blue chipper, but at the end of the day focus on scouting and signing the lesser-known players that they believe can thrive in the system.
WVU is not Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, or Ohio State, so they really shouldn’t try to be.
Instead, continue to pull in talented and motivated athletes that were spurned by schools like UT and OU, plug them in and watch them go.
It’s worked before for West Virginia and many other similar programs, and it should continue to work in the future.
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