Scout ranking: 29th--West Virginia has had five-star recruits come through its program in the modern era, but none has both lived up to the hype and had a powerful immediate impact like Bruce Irvin did in 2010. After attending Butler Community College, Irvin transferred to WVU and proved the kind of defensive destruction he was capable of immediately, tallying the second-most sacks in the NCAA (14) in his first season as a Mountaineer. The class also featured two touted four-star receivers in Ivan McCartney and Deon Long, but McCartney never developed at West Virginia, and Long never made it onto the field, transferring to New Mexico after reported discipline issues. Four-star QB Jeremy Johnson also never got the chance to put on a WVU jersey, transferring at the beginning of his true freshman season.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
2013: Gibson, Howard, White
Scout ranking: 28th--Dana Holgorsen proved to the Mountaineer faithful that he could recruit, and the 2013 class was a solid follow-up to his first full class as West Virginia’s head coach. Interestingly enough, this class is a microcosm of how recruiting tends to play out. In the class were two four-star recruits who were both in the Scout 300, WR Shelton Gibson and DL Darrien Howard. As touted as they were, the two have yet to make an impact on West Virginia — although they still have a few more seasons to do so. Conversely, a pair of JUCO receivers, Mario Alford and Kevin White, respectively ranked three- and two-star recruits, had instant impacts on WVU and capped their college careers off with spectacular senior seasons. Just goes to show: Recruit rankings mean little when it comes to how talent translates at the college level.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
2012: Lebbie, McManus, Joseph
Scout ranking: 27th--Holgorsen made sure to immediately imprint his stamp on Morgantown with his first full recruiting class, which came as a big relief to Mountaineer fans, who had just endured one of their worst recruiting classes of the modern era (2011: No. 54; modern-era low is No. 57 in 2003). However, everything didn’t quite go to plan. West Virginia’s top two four-star recruits, linebacker Sam Lebbie and wide receiver Deontay McManus never made even made it to campus. Fortunately, other members of the class have been integral contributors to the Mountaineers. Among others in the class were three-star Karl Joseph and two-star K.J. Dillon, who have become key fixtures in WVU’s defense, as well as a pair of other two-stars in receiver Jordan Thompson and placekicker Josh Lambert, who was clutch for the Mountaineers in 2014.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY SporJohn David Mercer
2009: Austin, Heastie, Smith
Scout ranking: 22nd--Bill Stewart’s first recruiting class was even better than Holgorsen’s. He landed six players in the Scout 300, including five-star RB Tavon Austin and four-stars Logan Heastie (WR) and Geno Smith (QB). Of the six, only two would excel at WVU. Heastie, WR Deon Long, and DT Dominik Davenport, all four-stars, would transfer, and four-star FB Chris Snook’s concussions forced him to retire. Nevertheless, Austin proved worthy of the hype, using his athleticism to transition to wide receiver, averaging a career 11.9 yards per catch and receiving Heisman votes as a senior. Smith would lead WVU to a 26-13 record as a starter, becoming its all-time leader in completions, completion percentage, passing yards, and TDs. Three-star WR Steadman Bailey also blossomed, becoming the Mountaineers’ all-time leader in TD receptions.
Getty ImagesJustin K. Aller
2007: Devine, Gradkowski , Lankster
Scout ranking: 19th--While Rich Rodriguez didn’t leave Morgantown on the best terms, his last full recruiting class was a doozy. He nabbed the No. 15 overall recruit in RB Noel Devine, who would go on to be a steady force in WVU’s offense, but never really lived up to the five-star hype despite a solid junior season in which he ran for 1,465 yards and scored 14 TDs. Highly touted four-star C Gino Gradkowski would go on to be a first-team All-American and future Super Bowl winner, but not with the Mountaineers. He’d transfer in 2009. Four-star JUCO CB Ellis Lankster instantly provided West Virginia with some backup in the ’07 season and would go on to have a solid college career. Beyond Lankster, most of the hyped recruits didn’t pan out, including two four-stars from Morgantown High School, DT Junius Lewis and QB Charlie Russell.