News & Notes On WVU Recruiting, Football Staff
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–There are more questions than answers at the moment in terms of West Virginia’s football program as it moves into the Neal Brown era.
There’s nothing nefarious in this curiosity. People just want to know details about the whos and whats as the Mountaineers make their biggest change in eight years.
There are dozens of questions I can’t yet answer, but here are some things I do know, or think I do:
• Brown is putting together both his assistant coaching and administrative staffs. Most of those are people are following him from Troy to West Virginia. Of the seven assistant coaches who have officially been announced, five of them worked with Brown at Troy last season – defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, defensive line coach Jordan Lesley, cornerback coach Al Pogue, quarterback coach Sean Reagan and offensive line coach Matt Moore. Brown has also brought three administrators with him from Troy – director of football administration Mark Perry, director of football operations Patrick Johnston and director of player personnel Brian Bennett.
The only non-Trojans officially added to the staff so far are running back coach Chad Scott, who worked last year at North Carolina though he did have a stint at Troy from 2007-09, and defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae, the former Mountaineer safety (2001-05) who spent last year at the University of Minnesota. While I included the position each assistant is likely handle, in reality Brown hasn’t announced those exact assignments yet – other than that Koenning who has been named defensive coordinator – and he probably won’t do so until he fills out the rest of the staff.
Though those the position assignments haven’t been announced, it does appear that Brown’s staff still likely needs a wide receiver coach, a special teams coach and a tight ends coach. Brown may not announce those hires until after the next National Letter of Intent signing period starts on Feb. 6. WVU’s new head coach, as well as his staff, is so busy on the road recruiting at the moment that it appears he doesn’t want to pause from that process and make the decisions on his final three assistant coaches at West Virginia.
The assistants who will ultimately handle the wide receivers and special teams are unknown – at least to me – but the tight ends coach may – I repeat “may” – already be at WVU. Dan Gerberry, who was the Mountaineers’ senior football analyst in 2017 before moving on the field to coach tight ends and fullbacks last season, is a candidate to be retained by Brown. No other assistant from Dana Holgorsen’s staff is going to be rehired by Brown – in fact most have already found new jobs. Gerberry is the lone candidate to remain at West Virginia.
One key member of WVU’s football staff who will definitely be back, I have confirmed, is strength coach Mike Joseph. The Fairmont native has overseen West Virginia’s strength and conditioning program since 2008, having worked for both Bill Stewart and Dana Holgorsen, and he’ll also be in charge of that part of the program for Neal Brown.
• As I said, Brown and his staff are busy on the recruiting trail with less than two weeks to go before the start of the next signing period.
Much of their recruiting work is being done for classes of 2020 and beyond, but they are also putting effort into filling the final scholarship slots available for the Mountaineers in the class of 2019.
The addition of transfer quarterback Austin Kendall leaves WVU with a maximum of six scholarships available for this class, and Brown reportedly would like to keep one or two scholarships in his pocket to be available for a late transfer or qualifier.
The Mountaineers have made dozens of offers to current high school juniors and sophomore since Brown took over, but they’ve seeming narrowed their focus for class of 2019 recruits to a specific handful.
Two cornerbacks from Montgomery, Ala., high schools – Tacorey Turner and Collin Duncan – are possibilities, as are Cocoa, Fla., defensive back Rashean Lynn and Navarre, Fla., defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson.
Brown is also targeting two high profile offensive linemen closer to home.
Neither Huntington’s Darnell Wright nor Spring Valley’s Doug Nester seemed particularly interested in the Mountaineers previously, but Brown is trying to make a late push for each, and word is that West Virginia’s has a reasonable chance of landing either or both of the highly-rated in-state products.
Wright is a five-star prospect who remains uncommitted despite getting plenty of recruiting interest from the likes of Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and plenty of others. He took an official visit to WVU this past weekend. Nester, who is rated a four-star recruit, committed to Ohio State in the summer of 2017, but he didn’t sign with the Buckeyes during the early Letter of Intent period last month, and it remains unclear if he’ll end up at OSU or elsewhere.
Neither has committed to the Mountaineers yet, but the word is West Virginia feels it has a legitimate chance at landing either or both during the next signing period.
• One player who won’t be coming to WVU is Josh Jackson, the Virginia Tech quarterback who has recently announced that he is exploring his transfer options.
But if Holgorsen, and his defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, had remained at West Virginia, Jackson would almost certainly be a Mountaineer.
Gibson had worked with Jackson’s father, Fred Jackson, when the two were on the coaching staff together at Michigan, and it appeared to be very likely Josh, who is slated to be a grad transfer from VT and will have two years of eligibility remaining, would land in Morgantown.
But then came the change in coaching staffs at WVU, and Brown secured his own grad transfer in Austin Kendall from Oklahoma. West Virginia almost certainly won’t take a second.
It will be interesting to see if Gibson now tries to recruit Jackson to N.C. State, where Gibbie is the Wolfpack’s co-defensive coordinator, though the ‘Pack have another transfer quarterback, Brock Hockman from Florida State via a juco, already entering school, so NCSU may not need another.
• Of things I don’t know, the one most often asked is the start of spring football practice and the date of the Gold-Blue Spring Game. Brown has not set either yet.