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Holgorsen Learning East Coast Recruiting at WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers have picked up five commitments and one transfer in five days, charging into the new season with a rush of prospects ready to join the team in 2014.

All but one, a junior college player at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, are from schools no farther west than Ohio. It's a far cry from the geographic delegation of recruiting classes the rest of the Big 12 Conference members pull in each year, but it's what works for West Virginia.

When Holgorsen first took over at WVU, he was frequently asked about his approach to recruiting. How much time would the Mountaineers put in combing through the hotbed that is Texas football for its future athletes?

With a starting running back in Dustin Garrison, a young receiving talent in Jordan Thompson and two potential quarterbacks of the future in Paul Millard and Ford Childress, there were indications that the attention out west was real. To date, the official roster for the Mountaineers shows 10 Texans, including University of Houston transfer running back Charles Sims.

"Me and Oliver [Luck] discussed this a bunch about possibly Texas being a situation that would get us a lot of players. We've been able to fill some holes with that," Holgorsen said of conversations with the WVU athletic director when he took the job in Morgantown.

There was, and remains, an opportunity to recruit in Texas, a state that according to WVUStats.com had only given West Virginia University nine football players before Holgorsen took over as head coach. But, as he becomes more accustomed to the job and to the region in which he currently resides, Holgorsen has realized that his scope would have to remain closer to home in order to find real success in the recruiting game.

"It took a while for me to figure this out, not knowing as much about it as I do now," Holgorsen admitted. "I wasn't as familiar with those recruiting territories as I am now and I didn't know if that was the approach we wanted to take."

That knowledge was part of what led to recent hires to the coaching staff. Holgorsen brought in JaJuan Seider, a former WVU quarterback and graduate assistant who has strong ties to South Florida, and two of the 11 committed athletes are his. He asked for Lonnie Galloway to return, the wide receivers coach having been responsible for bringing two first-round NFL Draft picks to Morgantown in Bruce Irvin and Tavon Austin.

With safeties coach Tony Gibson in western Pennsylvania, offensive line coach Ron Crook in Ohio and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell in New Jersey, WVU has an eye on much of the east coast's best football.

"We're not trying to change what's made West Virginia pretty successful over the last couple of decades," said Holgorsen. "The football in the northeast is pretty good. If you go to Ohio and Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey – we're five or six hours from Atlanta [and] South Florida has always been good to us."

Those areas can, and should, continue to provide for the Mountaineers. These are the states that have histories with the program and will have connections to WVU that reach beyond the specific coach who comes to a high school looking for talented players. 

That isn't to say Holgorsen will forget about what he knows in Texas, but it will not be the focus that he and Luck may have once hoped it could be.

"I've got so many ties in Texas, we've taken some guys out of Texas. It's helped us in Texas, but we're not going to make our living in Texas," Holgorsen said from Big 12 Media Days. "It would be challenging for us to compete against everybody in this room, recruiting-wise, recruiting the same areas as them. It'd be challenging."

Toe-to-toe with the University of Texas in Texas is difficult. The same goes for just about every other program in the conference with their longstanding relationships and histories in the region that West Virginia simply does not have.

That doesn't worry the Mountaineers' head coach, though. He has no doubt that the players he needs for his program will still be drawn to West Virginia, even if their conference games will no longer be close to home.

"It's all about the TV. If you want to be known coast-to-coast, the Big 12 is probably your best bet," said Holgorsen. "It's about College GameDay and what's shown on Saturdays and being in Sports Illustrated and being on SportsCenter at night. That's more important than proximity."

Holgorsen is learning on the job and the return to focus on east coast recruiting, while keeping a hand on the pulse of Texas, is a sign that he has been taught a thing or two about coaching at West Virginia University. 

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