As the hype builds up for West Virginia football for the 2018 season, their incoming 2018 recruiting class is considered one of the best in school history. With the return of star players like quarterback Will Grier, wide receivers David Sills V and Gary Jennings, running back Kennedy McKoy, linebacker David Long, and safeties Kenny Robinson and Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia has plenty of reasons to be excited for what 2018 could bring them with their core. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has 21 new faces coming into Morgantown for next season, some that will provide immediate impacts and others who will either be redshirted or compete for their playing time. This class features the most complete, but possibly best group since Holgorsen became head coach in 2010. The class has some players who are ready to contribute right away. Here is a look at three incoming freshmen players who will have the most immediate impact during 2018:
Defensive End Dante Stills:
An ESPN Top 300 recruit, Stills is from Fairmont, WV and the son of former Mountaineer standout Gary Stills from the late 1990s. He is also the brother of current Mountaineers’ defensive tackle Darius Stills. Stills is Holgorsen’s highest-rated recruit that’s committed to West Virginia and he is expected to compete for a starting position right away. He has great size for his position at 6’4″, 265 pounds and is so explosive off the ball using his strength and speed. He fits perfectly into the Mountaineers’ 3-3-5 defensive scheme that utilizes his best traits of pass rushing with strength and speed to get after the opposing quarterback. Forming a defensive line with his brother, former Last Chance U standout Ezekiel Rose, along with last season’s starters Adam Shuler II, Lamonte McDougle, and Reese Donahue could give the Mountaineers a very powerful front three rotation with a good combination of experience and youth. His quickness off the ball and athleticism at his size are rare to find and Holgorsen really may have found himself a gem in convincing Stills to stay home in Morgantown.
Safety Kwantel Raines:
Another ESPN Top 300 recruit, Raines is from Aliquippa, PA with a 6’3″, 200 pound frame that can be a special trait for a strong safety. He offers a similar skill set to what former Mountaineers’ safety Kyzir White gave the past two seasons for West Virginia, a physical athlete who likes to play down in the box and lay hits on backs and tight ends coming out of the backfield. However, Raines has the range to cover wide receivers down the field and better ball skills than White. His versatility is a rare trait to find at a player his size at the safety position as he is expected to be the Mountaineers’ defensive play-maker for the next few years. West Virginia’s defense was noticeably the main issue of costing the Mountaineers’ a couple of wins last season with just not enough experience or play-making ability to change the game. However, Raines puts them in the right direction to building back up a forceful unit. Raines should be a starter right away taking over the SPUR safety position in defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s defense. He should be able to make a lot of plays from day one playing next to Robinson and Askew-Henry.
Athlete T.J. Banks:
Banks is a three-star recruit from North Versailles, PA who relies on his athleticism and size to make it difficult for other teams to prepare for him. He is versatile with the ability to play both sides of the ball as a fullback/tight end/H-back on offense and a pass rushing defensive end on defense. At 6’5″, 260 pounds, I could see Banks play both sides of the ball but with his main focus likely coming on offense and special teams. Banks could be a huge red zone target from the tight end/H-back for Grier as he is too fast for linebackers to always keep up with and too big for corners and safeties to stop him. He is also a big body who can create a lot of running room for McKoy blocking given the graduation of fullback/H-back Elijah Wellman. I really think he could work his way into some pass rushing role on third downs too when West Virginia may need a speed rusher to come off the end to create some pressure using his athleticism to make it difficult for bigger tackles to block him. This may take him some time to develop but his immediate impact should be felt on offense. He also could be a force causing pressure to block punts and kicks on special teams. I see him in the backfield as a more athletic option of a fullback/tight end/H-back position to cause mismatches that Grier can take advantage of and could make the offense unstoppable.