Neal Brown took over the West Virginia football team from departed coach Dana Holgorsen at a tough time. Holgorsen led the team through the Early Signing Period. But he left about a month before National Signing Day. The rules allow players who sign letters of intent during the Early Signing Period to withdraw those letters upon a head coaching change. As a result, Brown not only had to recruit additional players, but he also had to keep the rest of the recruiting class intact. And on National Signing Day, Brown held serve and added bodies. In short, he performed both jobs admirably.
The Task of Re-recruiting
During his National Signing Day press conference, Brown told media that his first job was to get to know the athletes that were already in Morgantown. Then, Brown said his second job was to get to know the Early Period signees. He viewed that as an opportunity to re-recruit those players, and all of the early signees took advantage of the second official visit the rules afforded them. Brown used this time to impress even the players most loyal to the previous regime. Simply, the excitement surrounding the beginning of the Brown era rubbed off.
Early reactions to Holgorsen’s departure and Brown’s hiring demonstrated the difficult task before Brown. Georgia athlete Winston Wright and Virginia receiver Ali Jennings were among the signees initially expressing doubts about the staff turnover. But after talking with and meeting Brown and the new staff, even the most questionable commitments remained pledged to the Mountaineer program. As a result, Brown won hearts and mind before even adding his own touches to the Mountaineers’ incoming class.
Adding New Bodies
After the Early Signing Period, we said that the Mountaineers needed to add a quarterback, a couple of defensive linemen, one or two offensive linemen, one or two members of the secondary, and a receiver. We predicted the Mountaineers would add a quarterback out of the transfer market. And Brown’s first touch on West Virginia’s 2019 class was Austin Kendall, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma with two years of eligibility.
Then, Brown added two pieces to the secondary by securing commitments from Tavian Mayo and Rashean Lynn. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning recruiting Lynn heavily while at Troy, and he was among the first offerees when West Virginia hired Brown. Mayo, on the other hand, was initially recruited by Doug Belk, who joined Holgorsen in Houston. Belk was largely responsible for the Georgia pipeline the Mountaineers had been building. As a result, it seemed West Virginia was no longer a serious player in Mayo’s recruitment. However, Brown and staff used their charm and made a hard, late push to secure Mayo into the class.
Brown also pushed hard for Florida defensive tackle Jordan Jefferson. The 6’4, 300 pound recruit was one of the late bloomers of the 2019 prep class, and 247Sports assigned him a 3-star rating just within the past few days. Jefferson’s recruitment saw a late flurry of offers, with West Virginia, Kansas State, Louisville, and Florida State all joining the fray in the weeks before National Signing Day. At the end of the day, the Mountaineers emerged victorious and added Jefferson to their 2019 class.
Finally, Brown added blueshirt signee Tacorey Turner and appears likely to add three-star offensive lineman Nick Malone as either a preferred walk-on, a blueshirt, or a grayshirt.
Incoming Players as of National Signing Day
As of National Signing Day, the Mountaineers’ 2019 recruiting class is as follows. Note that the 247Sports ranking is not the composite ranking but 247Sports’ own internal ranking. An * by a name indicates the player committed under Coach Brown. The list below also includes all transfers whose scholarships count against the 2019 cap.
The 2019 Roster
The Mountaineers return 59 scholarship players to the 2019 roster. To date, they have only lost two underclassmen (Matt Jones to transfer and David Long to the NFL draft) since Coach Brown took over. With the incoming class, the Mountaineers will begin 2019 with 81 total scholarship players, assuming no changes between now and the beginning of Spring practice.
The following chart breaks down the players eligible to return to Morgantown next season by position and also shows the total per position as of National Signing Day. Next, the chart indicates the total snaps taken in a Mountaineer uniform by the returning players in 2018. (The parentheses here show the total number of players returning with more than 100 snaps taken in 2018). The chart also shows the number of players holding a four-star ranking by at least one of the three major services for each position group. Finally, the chart shows the average composite score for each position group.
|Position||Total Returning||Total with Commits||2018 Snaps Returning (excluding bowl)||Total 4 Stars||Average Composite|
In his National Signing Day press conference, Brown told the media that he will always look for ways to improve his roster. With the 3 remaining spots left in this class, he said he could add another defensive lineman, an offensive lineman, and a wide receiver. If he does fill these spots, it will probably be through the transfer or junior college route, as these represent immediate needs for the team.
Regardless, the Mountaineers return talent with significant experience at all positions except for quarterback. And at that position, the trio of highly-coveted quarterbacks should push a capable leader to the top. Fans will get their first taste of the 2019 version of their Mountaineers at the Spring Game. It will be held at Milan Puskar Stadium on April 13 at 1:00.