There are only a few editions of the Associated Press Top 25 poll left this season (this last poll comes out prior to the NCAA tournament). This week, there are six Big 12 teams the Top 25, which has been the norm of late. WVU moved up four spots to No. 10 after a perfect 2-0 week.
We’re in the home stretch of the college basketball season, and there are only a few polls left before the start of the NCAA tournament (there are no updates to the Associated Press top 25 poll during or after the Big Dance).
This is the second season I have held the honor of being West Virginia’s representative in the AP poll (there are 65 voters nationwide), and it has been one of the craziest seasons I can recollect.
What I was met with in crafting my most recent ballot has not been uncommon: 17 teams in my previous ballot lost at least one game last week, and Oregon, Louisville, Texas A&M, Texas and Southern Cal lost twice last week.
There was a new No. 1 in my poll (Kansas), a team that jumped from No. 7 to the top spot. Four of the six teams in front of the Jayhawks last week lost. Heck, Texas lost twice and held onto its No. 16 ranking on my ballot. Of course, the Longhorns’ losses at Oklahoma and at Iowa State aren’t really worth penalizing.
Wednesday’s National Signing Day festivities reminded me how much I enjoy the introduction to a wave of new names that might become household over the next four or five years of competition.
The Mountain State did quite well in this regard. Marshall signed Sir Patrick Scott and Pro Wells. West Virginia locked up Toyous Avery and Zach Sandwisch. Even here in the Kanawha Valley, Mister Merriweather will take the field at the University of Charleston this fall. Mr. Mister might line up next to UC’s new receiver, Keyshawn Johnson.
It has always amazed me how apropos names can be in college football. Of course Jawon Pass will play quarterback at Louisville. Of course Isaiah Goodspeed is a fleet-footed receiver headed to Air Force. Players with the last names of Fries and Mayo? Well-fed linemen. Tank Smith? He’ll be pushing people around in the trenches, too.
Here are my picks for the best names at each position, with a few runner-up nominations. Please note that not all of these players signed Wednesday, but may do so in the near future.
Winner: Messiah deWeaver — strong first/last name combo here puts this one over the top. He’ll play at Michigan State.
Also considered: Feleipe Franks, Jett Duffey and Gunnar Hoak. The last of those three is listed only because my son is named Gunnar and my wife’s maiden name is Hough, which is pronounced “hoke” like this Gunnar’s last name.
Winner: Tre Nation — the backs had the weakest offerings, but Tre Nation is marketable.
Runner-up: Armond Weh-Weh.
Winner: Dock Luckie — this Floridian is headed to Florida A&M, and, like Messiah, gets points for the first/last combo.
Also considered: Goodspeed deserves mention again, as well as Eddie McDoom, Allenzae Staggers and the unsigned Jerry Hippolyte.
Winner: Pro Wells — his real name is Provonsha, but he gets extra credit for being bold enough to go with “Pro” while still an amateur.
Also considered: Mister Merriweather, who is coming all the way from California to catch passes at UC.
Winner: Sage Doxtater — The 320-pound Canadian is headed to New Mexico State, but he sounds like a movie villain.
Also considered: Dixie Wooten, Tiller Bucktrot, Dakota Birdyshaw, Nigel Warrior, Gentle Williams, Michael Jordon and Rowdy Frederick. Doxtater received the strongest pushes from Wooten, Bucktrot and Warrior, while Rowdy Frederick might be the perfect linemen name.
Winner: Handsome Tanielu.
Also considered: Brodarius Hamm, Shug Frazier, Boss Tagaloa, Raekwon Davis (!), Bo Peek and Naquez Pringle. I wish I was confident enough to pull off Handsome McGill or Boss McGill. Also, this list makes me want ham and some Pringles.
Winner: Pookie Maka — If his real name isn’t Pookie, I couldn’t find it.
Also considered: WVU’s Sandwisch, Tuck Tucker and Majestic Jordan.
Winner: DiCaprio Bootle — What? Awesome. And he’s prompt … the first to fax his letter of intent to Nebraska on Wednesday.
Also considered: Gilbert Gildersleeve, Montavius Smoke, Cycoby Burch and Raleigh Texada. Smoke probably posed the biggest threat to Bootle. Don’t forget Marshall’s Sir Patrick Scott and WVU’s Elijah Battle here.
Winner: Jet Toner — By default. He is headed to Stanford, and no one posed a threat to this punter.
Also considered: None.
Winner: Lil’Jordan Humphrey — Also appears to be a given name. Well done.
National Signing Day 2016 — indeed, a holiday for college football fans who passionately follow recruiting — has come and gone. Of course, there are still stories to be told, like where former Capital High School star and Kennedy Award winner TyRhee Pratt will head next.
Pratt’s murky situation threw a wrench into the Gazette-Mail’s Signing Day coverage plans. You see, we initially planned a five-story-per-day, two-day assault on recruiting coverage from WVU to Marshall to the Mountain East Conference to the high school level. Pratt, of course, was at the core of our high school plan, and it was doubly delicious for us because the player voted as the state’s best in 2015 was headed to Morgantown to play in the Big 12.
Then on Signing Day eve, as we planned to send a photographer and videographer and sportswriter to Capital High School for Pratt’s signing ceremony, we learned of the news that Pratt would not be signing with WVU. Our Rick Ryan broke the story, which you can read here:
“They’re the same in that they’re very smart football players,” Point coach David Darst said of the Mitchell brothers. “Derek was a kid that really understood the game, and that’s about where the similarities of the two stop.”
“When I committed, I had a couple reporters call me, and one said he did some research and I’m the first player to come to play football from Missouri,” Behrndt said of his factual distinction in the program’s history.
“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a big role for me. If I do well, maybe they’ll think about recruiting some more out there. And if I’m terrible, they’ll probably leave it alone.’”
“I went around this summer to look at other Division II facilities, and you’d be amazed at what I saw,” he said. “I saw schools with indoor facilities and weight rooms that look like the size of gymnasiums. It’s a big deal.”
“We had a lot more holes on defense,” Holgorsen said. “We loaded up on four quality high school guys at [linebacker]. Obviously the one this morning, Brendan Ferns, was big for us. He’s a little bit of a legacy kid [with brother Michael already on WVU’s roster], but had lots of options.
“Secondary is probably the biggest need on defense. You lose K.J. [Dillon], Karl [Joseph] and [Terrell] Chestnut. We’ve been down the road of having to play freshmen there in the past and it didn’t work out very good, so that’s where we attacked the junior colleges more than anything.”
“The nice thing is, we’ve really been able to experience a lot,” said the father. “We’ve met five Heisman Trophy winners. We’ve been everywhere from Oklahoma to Georgia and the SEC. It was cool for the first wave, but then it gets exhausting.”
“A lot of those guys, I’ve had a good relationship with, whether it’s their parents, their families or their coaches,” Kirkland said. “That’s exciting that we’ve got some of those guys who have that experience.”
“Our guys that are within our program right now, they know they have to compete to earn everything they get,” Anderson said. “And we tell that to the guys we’re recruiting. If you come in here and truly compete and truly earn a spot, we’ll play you.”
After you’re finished clicking on those links, go find Thursday’s edition of the Gazette-Mail. The recruiting coverage takes up the entire front page and two inside pages, which you can see below. The page on the left is full of capsules for each player who signed with WVU and Marshall. You’ll find lists of UC and State signees on the opposite page.