Ben Cutter was not among West Virginia’s highest-rated commits in the 2023 recruiting class. It’s hard to believe a player with his production wasn’t seen more favorably by scouts and talent evaluators.

The three-star linebacker was only seriously recruited by two Power 5 programs — Louisville and West Virginia. With efforts led by linebackers coach Jeff Koonz, the Mountaineers won the recruiting battle.

What did WVU get by earning Cutter’s commitment? A player who finished his high school career with an astounding 579 total tackles, and never played a season in which he tallied less than 91.

“It’s pretty crazy, isn’t it?” Koonz said.

Cutter played for East Lincoln High School in Denver, North Carolina, roughly 30 minutes north of downtown Charlotte. The Mustangs, the reigning North Carolina 3A state champions, play in the second-highest classification of high school football in the state.

As a freshman in 2019, Cutter logged 137 total tackles and 11 tackles for loss. He tallied 91 stops the next season, though that was in a COVID-19-altered seven-game spring season. As a junior, Cutter was credited with 158 tackles, 15 TFLs, and an interception. Somehow, he saved his best for last.

“Coming out of high school, he’s what you want. He’s a find-the-ball guy,” said Koonz. “He did multiple things for his high school; he played running back on top of that. He was their punter – faked a few punts for yardage. So, I mean, he was a do-all guy athlete that’s big and physical.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Cutter was the 13th-highest-rated defensive player out of North Carolina in the 2023 recruiting cycle, according to 247Sports. ESPN was slightly more bullish on him, rating him as the No. 32 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 28 overall recruit in the Tar Heel State.

With the now-West Virginia freshman linebacker leading the way, East Lincoln completed a perfect 16-0 championship season last fall. The Mustangs held opposing offenses to a minuscule 6.81 points per game, and allowed only three teams to score in double-figures.

Playing out his final season of high school football, Cutter amassed the following stat line: 193 total tackles, two sacks, eight tackles for loss, and four interceptions. That doesn’t include the 302 rushing yards and three touchdowns he collected on offense.

“Ben’s a ball-chasing, ballhawk guy. High energy. He plays big. He plays fast,” added Koonz. “He’s learning the speed of the college game, but for a young guy right now, I’ve been really happy with his transition and how he’s worked and learned.”

Entering his first year at the collegiate level, Cutter will be called on to produce right away. According to Koonz, Cutter is in the mix to play on multiple special teams units and defense at Will linebacker.

Koonz and the defensive coaches have been impressed by Cutter since he arrived in January. He has already added 14 pounds, most of which appears to be muscle mass, since then. Koonz described him as a player who can hit, make plays, and is smart on the field. He is part of a linebacker room that is as deep with talent as West Virginia’s linebackers coach can remember having.

Cutter may be somewhat on the periphery of that room now, as a first-year player. But coaches hope he’ll be the center of the group soon enough.

“Really excited about what he’s going to have the opportunity to contribute this year and in the future,” said Koonz.