WVU football recruiting: Holgorsen tries to replace Geno Smith, boost defense

Al Messerschmidt

Bevy of halfbacks and linebackers for Mountaineers in 2013.

West Virgina's first season in the Big 12 was a mixed bag. The Mountaineers won their first five games, quarterback Geno Smith was a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, and their high-powered offense looked to be a perfect fit for their new conference. A 49-14 loss at Texas Tech knocked West Virginia out of the top 10 and set off a five-game losing streak. After a pair of late-season victories against conference also-rans Iowa State and Kansas, the Mountaineers were flat in a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse. Coach Dana Holgorsen's offense was certainly entertaining, but the Mountaineer defense needs to improve its 38.1 points allowed per game average if the program is to progress.

Chavas Rawlins: Geno Smith is leaving for NFL lucre, and little-used backup Paul Millard has not exactly set the world on fire. Holgorsen's offense might not require a dual-threat quarterback, but Chavas Rawlins gives him the option. Rawlins, a three-star recruit out of Monessen, Pennsylvania, chose West Virginia over offers from Nebraska, Tennessee, Cincinnati and a host of mid-level Big Ten, Big East, and MAC programs. Rawlins will likely compete with Millard and Ford Childress for the quarterback position.

Zaire Williams: West Virginia is signing six running backs in their 2013 class, with the exquisitely named Zaire Williams headlining the group. Williams received offers from Iowa, Wisconsin, UConn, Pitt and Purdue, and has a three-star rating from both Rivals and Scout. Junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and three-star freshmen Jacky Marcellus, DeShawn Coleman and Wendell Smallwood join Williams in the backfield.

Darrien Howard: Howard, a linebacker from Dayton, Ohio, is the lone four-star prospect in West Virginia's class. He held offers from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Pitt, with interest from Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon. At 6'2 and 250 lbs., Howard could step in immediately for a West Virginia defense in need of help.

D'Vante Henry: The JUCO transfer from Arizona's Yuma College also figures to play immediately in the Mountaineer linebacker corps. Henry held offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Oregon State when he committed on Dec.18. He took a visit to Oklahoma after the verbal commitment, however, and his signature remains in play.

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