By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Somehow West Virginia got through the 2011 season with just Geno Smith and freshman Paul Millard at quarterback, despite throwing the football a school record number of times.
They won’t have that depth problem next year when Smith returns for his senior season with the Heisman Trophy a realistic goal as Texas quarterback Ford Childress is among five early signees who are enrolling in school for the spring semester and will count against last year’s recruiting numbers.
Childress is a 6-4, 210-pound quarterback out of Houston’s Kindaid High School, which he led to a 20-1 record the past two seasons.
He is joined in this early group that will participate in spring practice by defensive tackle Imarjaye Albury, a 6-2, 280-pounder out of Miami’s Northwestern High; safety Karl Joseph, a 5-11, 190-pounder from Edgewater High in Orlando, Fla.; wide receiver Jordan Thompson, a 5-9, 163-pounder out of Katy, Texas; and safety Sean Walters, a 6-2, 195-pounder out of Hallandale Beach, Fla.
Childress completed 184 of 292 passes for 2,171 yards and 41 touchdowns this season. He threw only seven interceptions in 10 games while completing 63.1 percent of his passes. He was sixth in passing yards and second in touchdown passes in the Houston area.
He threw for more than 300 yards six times, one of them a game in which he surpassed 400 passing yards.
According to the WVU announcement, he was offered by Arizona, Arizona State, Florida State and Oklahoma State.
Thompson, the diminutive receiver, is the other Texan in the class, coming out of Katy High, one of the great programs in the state that has won six state championships and 12 regional titles.
Thompson finished the season with 66 catches for 1,117 yards, an average of 17.8 yards per reception, while scoring 17 TDs. He caught a touchdown pass in every game but one this year.
Thompson’s team lost in the 2010 Division 2 Class 5A state quarterfinals to Pearland, Texas, and its star running back Dustin Garrison, who was WVU’s leading rusher this year before injuring his knee practicing for the Orange Bowl.
Albury, Joseph and Walters are Florida products. The defensive tackle, Albury, had 45 tackles this season including 12 for losses and four sacks while last year he helped his team to the regional semifinals of the Florida 6A state playoffs. He was also offered by Cincinnati, Florida Atlantic, Kansas State, Kentucky, Louisville and Wake Forest.
Joseph finished this season with 126 tackles, 97 of them solo, three sacks, four forced fumbles, three recoveries, four blocked punts and two blocked field goals. The previous season was even better with 142 tackles, of which 109 were solo. He had 22 tackles for a loss nine sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
He was also offered by Cincinnati, East Carolina, Illinois, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCF, USF and Virginia.
Walters, a bigger safety, had 89 tackles and 29 pass breakups with one interception this year after sitting out his junior year with an ankle injury. He was also offered by Minnesota and South Florida.
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The post-season honors have started coming in and the Football Writers Association of America has honored head coach Dana Holgorsen, who led the Mountaineers to a share of the Big East championship and the Orange Bowl title, as first-year head coach of the year.
At the same time running back Dustin Garrison, who missed the Orange Bowl with a knee injury but gained 742 yards with six touchdowns during the regular season, was named ECAC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Also selected as ECAC all-star were quarterback Geno Smith, wide receiver Tavon Austin, who also was the return specialist, and defensive back Keith Tandy.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @bhertzel.