Who are the top 15 players that have signed with West Virginia during the Rivals.com era out of high school or junior college? How did they do during their careers? Did they live up to the rankings or fail to?
Well, WVSports.com uses the Rivals.com data from 2002-2021 to determine who are those top 15 rated players that have signed with West Virginia and what have they done on the field once they arrived in Morgantown?
Rivals ranking: Five-star, 6.1, No. 15 nationally
Recruitment: Devine had his pick of scholarship offers but it ultimately came down to West Virginia and Florida State with the Mountaineers receiving his commitment. It took a few months to sign his letter of intent, but he eventually did and became the highest rated player to pick the program in the Rivals.com era getting the edge due to his position ranking.
Career: Devine entered the program probably as hyped as any player that had come before him and he lived up to the expectation finishing his career as the third all-time leading rusher with 4,315 yards and fifth in rushing touchdowns with 29 even with injuries affecting his senior season
Rivals ranking: Five-star, 6.1, No. 15 nationally
Recruitment: Gwaltney committed to West Virginia early in the process but as his stock elevated he considered other opportunities and even backed off his pledge to the Mountaineers. Still in the end the coaches were able to seal the deal with the first five-star of the Rivals.com era for the program.
Career: The all-time leading rusher in Long Island just never clicked in Morgantown during his tenure. He appeared in only five career games rushing for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns before leaving the program before he ended up at Kean University rushing for a school record 1,412 yards in 2010.
Rivals ranking: Four-star, 6.0, No. 37 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia had the benefit of having several ties to Miramar and several of high school teammates including Geno Smith which made this a battle between West Virginia and Miami. The Mountaineers would win the battle.
Career: McCartney played sparingly as a true freshman but never quite lived up to the expectations he had coming into the program. He appeared in 43 games catching 71 passes for 863 yards and four touchdowns and even left the program during his junior season before eventually returning.
Rivals ranking: Four-star, 6.0, No. 45 nationally
Recruitment: At the time, Barrett was the most highly rated player in the state of West Virginia and remained that way until he was supplanted by the first five-star Darnell Wright in the 2019 class. There were other suitors but the Mountaineers were always heavily involved and was able to add him to the roster after he failed to qualify.
Career: A two-time Kennedy Award winner, Barrett failed to qualify in his first season after high school and after legal troubles he was able to get into West Virginia the next year as an invited walk-on. But after several more off the field issues, Barrett was dismissed from the team. Was the MVP of the spring game before his dismissal with five catches for 105-yards.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9, No. 101 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia got on Spain early and while he received plenty of attention later on he remained true to his word and stuck with the program.
Career: Spain started 26 games during his career and appeared in a total of 38 at a number of positions along the offensive line. He also has become a starter at the professional level with the Tennessee Titans and then signed a contract with the Buffalo Bills.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9, No. 116 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia was the first school to offer Stills and stuck with him throughout the entirety of the recruiting process. Despite offers from Oklahoma, Florida and others ultimately the ties, being the son of Gary Stills, and his bond with the coaches proved to be the deciding factors in favor of the Mountaineers.
Career: The only player on this list that is still playing at West Virginia, Stills had an impressive freshman year grading out as one of the top players on defense is a little over 200 snaps. As a sophomore he finished tied for the lead in sacks with seven. He put together another strong season as a junior and will return for his senior season.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9, No. 129 nationally
Recruitment: Gibson visited West Virginia over the summer for a 7-on-7 camp and the Mountaineers never let up recruiting him hard throughout. His final decision came down to West Virginia, Tennessee or Ohio State with the Mountaineers receiving the edge.
Career: Gibson was one of the most heralded prospects in the 2013 class and after redshirting during his first season got off to a slow start during his freshman year. However, over his final two seasons Gibson erupted onto the scene accounting for 1,838 yards and 17 touchdowns developing into one of the primary deep threats in college football before electing to go pro with one year left.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9, No. 146 nationally
Recruitment: Has there ever been a greater rebound than Smith when it comes to West Virginia? Tajh Boyd was the original commitment for the Mountaineers but opened up his recruitment in October making Smith the prime target. He would commit to the program shortly after a visit to watch the Mountaineers play Cincinnati.
Career: Appeared in 44 games, started 39 games – Threw for 11,662 yards and 98 touchdowns with only 21 interceptions, while rushing for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns. Smith was a program changing quarterback that broke multiple records during his time in Morgantown. He was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has served as a backup in the league since then.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9, No. 163 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia was involved with Durante early and that led to an early commitment to the program. While the Mountaineers had to fight off a number of other schools, they were able to do that and bring him to campus.
Career: Durante played as a true freshman catching 25 passes for 395 yards and 5 touchdowns and then followed that up with 35 grabs for 331 yards and 2 more scores. But he would elect to leave the program before his junior season and transferred to Florida Atlantic where he put together his best campaign with 873 yards and 5 scores. He would elect to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9
Recruitment: Irvin bounced around to several schools in his recruitment such as Tennessee and Arizona State, but eventually ended up at West Virginia as a junior college pass rusher that was projected to make a difference immediately.
Career: There was no question that he did just that. Irvin had two monster years in Morgantown finishing with 61 tackles and 23 sacks during that time and was picked in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. One of the true home runs on the list, Irvin was not only loved on the field but away from it as he has became one of the most endearing players in recent memory.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.9
Recruitment: West Virginia secured the signature of Finau not once but twice as he failed to qualify both times but was drew to the program due to his connections.
Career: Finau never made it to campus and his recruitment has become somewhat of a folk legend with West Virginia fans due to the circumstances. He eventually did enroll at Utah where he spent two seasons recording 42 tackles before going undrafted and bouncing around to several NFL teams.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.8, No. 129 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia got heavily involved with Buie after the new coaching staff took over led largely by running backs coach Robert Gillespie. The ultimate battle down the stretch was between the Mountaineers and Louisville, with West Virginia winning.
Career: Buie saw action during his first season but led the Mountaineers in rushing during the 2012 campaign with 851 yards. He would then leave school during the fall of 2013 before returning the following year where he saw limited action before leaving the school once again to be a graduate transfer at Charlotte.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.8, No. 167 nationally
Recruitment: This was a battle between West Virginia and Pittsburgh almost from the start and the Mountaineers seized momentum in the summer of his senior season and never let up eventually securing a commitment in December that year.
Career: Henry was a strong contributor throughout his career appearing in 49 games and racking up 208 total tackles and six interceptions. He bounced around to all of the safety positions during his time in Morgantown and while an injury sidelined him he bounced back to close out with one of his best years as a senior.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.8, No. 169 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia was involved with McManus early in the process and never let up securing his commitment after a visit to campus in June. He was solid throughout the rest of the way and signed with the program in February.
Career: Unfortunately, McManus never made it to West Virginia as he failed to qualify his first season and after attending a prep school in Atlanta, the Mountaineers didn’t really pursue the second time around. He ended up at Marshall for three years where he moved to tight end and hauled in 102 passes for 1,212 yards and 10 touchdowns before electing to head to the NFL with one year left.
Rivals Ranking: Four-star, 5.8, No. 178 nationally
Recruitment: West Virginia was always at the top for Kerns and secured his commitment early in the process.
Career: Failed to qualify that first year and attended a prep school in order to get his situation in order. Kerns finally enrolled at West Virginia in 2008 only to be flagged by the NCAA and declared ineligible again ending his time with the Mountaineers before it ever really started.
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