The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 7, 2012

Nehlen waited to rate recruits

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen is admittedly happy overall with his first football recruiting class as West Virginia’s head coach.

The 27 signed players included five who already are enrolled and count in last February’s class.

“We are very excited where we are with it,” Holgorsen said. “Fourteen are on offense and 13 on defense.” So there’s obviously pretty good balance.

If he’s like most head coaches, however, Holgorsen might well take a wait-and-see attitude before making firm judgment on the class.

Don Nehlen, West Virginia’s head coach from 1980-2000, never would predict how good any of his classes might be rated on signing day.

“I told the media guys I’d tell them in two or three years,” Nehlen said from his Florida home. “You’ve got to see how each recruit develops.”

The retired Hall of Famer was a great recruiter as well as a great coach. He was the winningest in WVU football history.

“If (Holgorsen) got 27 recruits and 14 or 15 prove to be really good players, then he’s had a pretty good year (recruiting),” said Nehlen, whose 21-year record was 149-93-4.

I’ve never been one who spent much time being concerned about college recruiting. But growing interest has numerous fans keeping taps on that vital process.

But I did notice that there isn’t any West Virginia native in this recruiting class.

Twelve of the 27 are from Florida, which undoubtedly is a record for WVU. Nehlen suspects that the 70-33 conquest of Clemson in the Orange Bowl in Miami had to help.

Holgorsen’s staff signed four from Texas, three from Maryland, two each from Ohio and New Jersey and one each from Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

Before hanging up the telephone, Nehlen recalled some of the better players his coaches recruited at WVU.

“We had some great players over the years,” he said. “But I don’t know who ever came up with a 5-star, 4-star and 3-star. We never paid attention to those.”

He named Brian Jozwiak and Rich Braham as the best two offensive linemen he coached at WVU. Both earned consensus All-America status.

“Braham was an aggressive kid and I watched him in basketball,” Nehlen said of the University High graduate. “He played tight end at UHS.”

Braham went on to play 12 years in the NFL. Jozwiak was drafted No. 1 by Kansas City but had a bad hip and didn’t play much as a pro.

“We also had some excellent quarterbacks and halfbacks,” Nehlen noted. “Ollie (Luck) and Jeff (Hostetler) were the two (QBs) who put our program on the map (in 1981-83).”

Other standout signal-callers included Kevin White, Major Harris, Darren Studstill, Jake Kelchner and Marc Bulger.

“We also had some excellent running backs,” Nehlen continued. “I wish I had Robert Alexander longer than I had him. Adrian Murrell, A.B. Brown, Undra Johnson, Avon Cobourne, Eugene Napolean and so many others.

“They all were great tailbacks that come to mind. I’m sure there were some others that didn’t come to mind,” Nehlen concluded.