By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
February 3, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bill Stewart said his coaches were searching for three things from this year’s recruiting class: tall, fast and athletic football players. The coach believes West Virginia achieved all three objectives on Wednesday, the first day prospects can sign NCAA letters-of-intent.
||West Virginia coach Bill Stewart makes a point during Wednesday's signing day press conference at the Milan Puskar Center.
Dale Sparks/All-Pro Photography
Others seem to agree. Rivals.com has Stewart’s class rated No. 19 while Scout.com, another Internet rating service, has West Virginia’s class 26th, making it one of the strongest classes in the Big East Conference.
Three of West Virginia’s 19 recruits played in this year’s U.S. Army All-America game in quarterback Barry Brunetti, wide receiver Ivan McCartney and offensive tackle Quinton Spain.
“Those three, on paper and high school film, they are pretty ahead of the curve right now,” said Stewart. “We don’t get those kinds of guys, supposedly. We’re not supposed to get them here, according to the experts.”
West Virginia needed a couple of quarterbacks and Stewart said they managed to get the two they targeted in Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson. Last summer, Stewart told offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen to come up with a list of the best quarterbacks in the country. After pairing it down from 15 players, Mullen was able to locate Brunetti in Memphis and Johnson in Kountze, Texas.
“They both know they’re coming,” said Stewart. “They’re both Elite 11 types of players and they also know we have an Elite 11 quarterback (Gino Smith) waiting here. When you can find three guys that want to compete for one job … those are three pretty special guys. That will be great competition.”
Stewart also wanted great competition at wide receiver and the four prospects West Virginia landed this year appear to be exceptional.
The Mountaineers went into Miami’s backyard and beat out the Hurricanes for McCartney, a 6-foot-3, 183-pound speedster with big-time playmaking ability. McCartney caught 37 passes for 747 yards and 10 touchdowns playing for former WVU coach Damon Cogdell. McCartney’s teammate, Dante Chambers, was the team’s leading receiver with 58 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns. He will also be suiting up for the Mountaineers in 2010.
Deon Long was the No. 1-rated prep school prospect in the country this year playing at Hargrave Military Academy. Last year, as a senior at Dunbar High school in Washington, D.C. Long caught 35 passes for 840 yards and nine touchdowns. Long is already enrolled in school and will be able to compete in spring drills.
Quantavious Leslie, from Hogansville, Ga., was a two-time county player of the year after catching 22 passes for 739 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. Leslie boasts outstanding height (6-foot-4) and exceptional athletic ability.
West Virginia’s other area of need was linebacker where Stewart landed three very solid prospects in Doug Rigg, Jewone Snow and Troy Gloster.
Rigg hails from Oradell, N.J., and played at traditionally strong Bergen Catholic High School where he earned Newark Star-Ledger first team all-state honors.
Snow comes from Canton McKinley, another prep power, accumulating 161 tackles and nine tackles for losses. Snow, a two-time all;-state selection, will be on the Ohio roster for this year’s Ohio-Pennsylvania Big 33 Game in Hershey, Pa.
Gloster was a consensus all-state pick at Good Counsel High School where he led his team to an 11-1 record and the conference championship. Stewart first met Gloster when he was unsuccessful recruiting his older brother Drew, who played at Maryland.
“You always recruit the little brother,” Stewart said. “This is a great reward from about eight years ago.”
West Virginia’s group of defensive backs includes three safeties and two corners.
Travis Bell, from Belle Glade, Fla., was considered a Top 100 Florida recruit who picked off 10 passes his senior year.
Michael Dorsey is a hard-hitting strong safety from Warren, Ohio who will also play in the Big 33 Game. Dorsey forced seven fumbles as a senior and may one day grow big enough to become an outside linebacker.
Wes Tonkery from Bridgeport, W.Va., is the only Mountain State native in this year’s recruiting class. Tonkery earned most of his acclaim as a running back for the Indians, but will switch to the defensive side of the ball in college.
Avery Williams was a late pick up from Washington, D.C., and will be tried first at corner. Williams was a two-time league most valuable player selection while also averaging 6.0 yards per carry as a running back during his senior year.
Qudral Forte was a player the West Virginia coaches coveted from Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. Forte passed for more than 1,200 yards and ran for more than 1,000 as a quarterback, but his great speed and athletic ability projects as a college defensive back.
“Qudral Forte is good enough to be a major college quarterback,” said Stewart.
Two large offensive linemen were signed from Virginia in 6-foot-6, 330-pound Quinton Spain from Petersburg and 6-foot-5, 290-pound Marquis Wallace from Richmond. Spain is also a standout basketball player at Petersburg High School, while the WVU coaching staff is impressed with Wallace’s great knowledge of the game.
Trey Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 172-pound burner from Richmond, was the lone running back signed in this year’s class. He ran for 1,785 yards and scored 19 touchdowns as a senior to make the Roanoke Times list of top players in the state.
“He may be the fastest player in the state,” Stewart said of Johnson.
Trevor Demko, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound product of Mount Carmel High School in Kulpmont, Pa., and Bruce Irvin, a 6-3, 235 pound junior college standout from Mt. San Antonio Community College in Walnut, Calif., round out this year’s class.
Demko earned second-team all-state honors despite an injury-shortened senior season. He still managed 38 tackles and a sack and a half.
Irvin is a big-time pass rusher ranked the No. 6 junior college prospect in the nation. Irvin also had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee and USC before choosing the Mountaineers.
“I was driving with Bill Kirelawich (to visit a prospect) and Bill has been here since 1979,” said Stewart. “He looks over at me and he says, ‘Do you know who we’re going head-to-head with on this guy?’ I said yes I do and he said, ‘It’s awesome, Stew.’ This goes to show you, you don’t have to be what we say you are. You can be what you want to be if you go out and work hard and treat people right.”
Stewart said there is a possibility of an additional player or two in the coming days.