West Virginia's defense was decimated by graduation following the 2015 season, and the Mountaineers signed several prospects Wednesday aimed at softening the losses, led by linebacker Brendan Ferns and junior college safety Kyzir White.
West Virginia's recruiting class includes 15 players on defense among its 27 recruits for what could be a pivotal season for coach Dana Holgorsen.
Holgorsen is 35-28 in five years and was told in December by athletic director Shane Lyons following the end of a 7-5 regular season that he could keep his job in 2016.
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It won't be easy. West Virginia lost nine players who started on defense last season.
''I think top to bottom we filled a lot of needs,'' Holgorsen said.
He said going after junior college players to fill holes in the secondary was important because ''we've been down the road of having to play freshmen in the Big 12. It didn't work out very good.''
West Virginia landed seven junior college transfers, including four in the secondary.
White and Ferns will be joining family on the team.
The 6-foot-3 Ferns from St. Clairsville, Ohio, is the brother of WVU offensive lineman Michael Ferns.
White, from Lackawanna Junior College in Pennsylvania, is the brother of former WVU standout receiver Kevin White and current receiver Ka'Raun White.
Other things to know:
Top 25 Class: No
Best in class: Ferns; Steven Smothers, WR, Reisterstown, Maryland.
Best of the rest: Justin Crawford, RB, Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Late addition: Craig Smith, OL, Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
One that got away: Tyrhee Pratt, QB, Charleston, West Virginia. Pratt said he needs to think about his decision and remains unsigned.
How they'll fit in: The Mountaineers must replace Big 12 rushing champion Wendell Smallwood, who has declared for the NFL draft. Rushel Shell is the top returning rusher, and he'll be joined in the competition for the starting job by Crawford and fellow signees Martell Pettaway and Kennedy McKoy.