Just about everyone connected to West Virginia University is excited about the school's move to the Big 12. Apparently, that includes the program's recruits.
Coordinator of Recruiting Operations Ryan Dorchester is happy with how recruiting has gone for the team so far, though this is his first year with his new job title.
"It's going good," he said. "I don't know what the measuring stick for a good, bad, or indifferent year would be at this point, but I think it's going well."
Dorchester got his start with WVU football as an undergraduate manager and has been working his way up through ever since. Now, he works as the middle man between the coaches and recruits, so he has a good feel for exactly what goes into the recruiting process.
This year, the coaches are able to use conference stability and recognition as a tool in recruiting. Conference realignment affected almost every conference over the last year, and West Virginia found itself right in the middle of the scramble. Making a move up from a conference like the Big East to one the caliber of the Big 12 has obviously caught the attention of high school football players.
"The Big 12, I definitely think is exciting to kids," Dorchester said. "That's something that all of the coaches talked about when they were out on the road as far as, it's a conference that has a little bit more recognizable image to it and, not that there's anything wrong with the Big East, but you don't have to defend your conference anymore, which is good."
It's not just about playing in a high-profile conference, though. One of the biggest benefits of playing in the Big 12 is the ability to get the program's proverbial foot in the door in one of the nation's best states for football recruiting, Texas. Four teams in the conference call Texas home, and WVU will travel to play two of those this season.
"For Texas, I think it's really going to pay dividends after we're down there for a year playing some games, just to give you a face, you know, have a presence," Dorchester said.
He believes that West Virginia can take advantage of the exposure in Texas in the same way that other teams in the conference have.
"You look at some of the teams in the Big 12," he said. "I mean Missouri, for example. Missouri's done a really good job of recruiting Texas in the Big XII, and it's not like Kansas City's sitting right next to Texas. It's ten hours from Dallas, maybe more, so I think that once we get down there, have a presence, next year's class is where you're really going to see a lot of improvement in Texas."
Of course, just playing in a conference isn't enough to attract some of the top talents in the country to Morgantown. West Virginia's recent success, especially the blowout win in the Orange Bowl, had a lot of high school players excited about the thought of playing for the Mountaineers.
"I don't think there's a whole lot of kids that didn't see the Orange Bowl," said Dorchester. "That definitely helps, especially in Florida. We were a pretty hot commodity, at least in the spring, which that's great, but you have to sustain that kind of success for that to really pay dividends. Come September and October, there will be a new game to talk about. Next January, there will be another Orange Bowl to talk about, so we obviously have to do our part to make sure we stay a hot commodity."
The hope is that these same players that are being recruited right now will be the ones that do help continue that success, and do continue to attract recruits to WVU.
Joining the Big 12 is already paying off for West Virginia as far as recruiting. A strong first season in the conference certainly couldn't hurt.