MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Those working inside the Milan Puskar Center were smiling and walking with a little more bounce in their steps after Andrew Buie’s signed letter-of-intent came across the fax machine around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon.
He was the 17th and final player to sign with the Mountaineers during Wednesday’s national signing day.
Buie, a 5-foot-9, 191-pound running back From Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy, is considered one of the top prospects in the state of Florida who had a whole host of suitors looking to lock him down. In the end he picked West Virginia – remarkable, not for the fact that he turned down a number of schools to do so, but because the Mountaineers’ new offensive coaching staff had such little time to really develop a relationship with him.
“I kind of looked at (Buie) and he looked about 5-foot-7, 160 pounds and then I did the whole pat him on the back and feel his arm kind of thing and he had muscles sticking out everywhere,” said Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia’s new offensive coordinator. “I asked him how much he weighed and he said 190 and I didn’t believe him, but he’s probably 180 or so.
“I don’t care much about weight,” Holgorsen added. “He’s a quick-twitched guy. (Texas running back Dustin) Garrison is like 165 or 170, but tough and quick-twitched, and Buie is 185 and quick-twitched and fast, so they’re perfect fits for this offense.”
Holgorsen and West Virginia’s other new offensive coaches jumped into the race late with the clock already ticking, but was still able to pull Buie out of Florida, speester Garrison from the class 5A state championship team in Texas, along with four offensive linemen, each standing 6-feet-4 or taller.
“The two running backs we’re happy with,” Holgorsen said. “We just watched tape; they were productive and we liked the kids so we want hard on them and got the two that we were after.”
The four offensive linemen hail from different parts of the country, two from Florida (Marquis Lucas and Russell Haughton-James from south Florida), one from the Cleveland area (Brandon Jackson) and one from West Virginia (Justin Johnson).
“Coach (Bill) Bedenbaugh did a good job of coming in and identifying the linemen that he wanted,” said Holgorsen. “It’s not easy to get four linemen. We had zero committed when we got here and those guys are hard to get, so the fact that we got a few at that position is good. It will be easier to get four or five next year after he has an opportunity to recruit these guys for a whole year.”
West Virginia signed only two wide receivers (Dante Campbell and K.J. Myers) on Wednesday, although Holgorsen admitted they could have easily taken more.
“The two receivers that were committed between coach (David) Lockwood and coach (Lonnie) Galloway those two guys remained solid and we could have went out and signed four more if we wanted to but we wanted to get quality guys, not just numbers,” Holgorsen explained. “That will be an emphasis on what we do next year.”
On the other side of the ball, Holgorsen said the defensive staff has had their plan in place and was able to continue to fill their needs.
“Defensively these guys had their guys set,” he said. “There were a little more surprises offensively than there was defensively because they had been here.”
The biggest surprise, according to Holgorsen, is the way prospects make their decisions on the East coast. It is dramatically different than what he was used to when recruiting Southwest players at Houston and Oklahoma State.
“The Southwest kids they typically like to (commit) in the summer and they’re pretty much done,” Holgorsen said. “I’m not saying kids change their minds and some kids wait it out, but 90% of the time those kids are going to remain with the school they committed to during the summer. The East coast is different. It’s about press conferences, taking all your visits, pulling hats out at the last second and that sort of thing.
“They’re both productive, those kids get to go to school either way, but it is drastically different,” he added.
Because of that, Holgorsen said it can make for a much more interesting signing day.
“We are typically within 90% of our class by the summer, where here you could be anywhere from 50% to 60% heading into the last weekend of your recruiting,” he explained. “You just do the best that you can and try and feel good about the kids that you’re on. It was a little trickier for us because we came in late and we could only see these kids once, sometimes twice and maybe three times. Typically you don’t get to know them very well if you only see them for that one month.”
With a full year to evaluate prospects, Holgorsen said some of that guesswork will be eliminated when they are ready to sign 2012 prospects.
“It will be a lot easier next year,” he said.