Recruiting This Year A Multi-Step Process For WVU’s Brown
MORGANTOWN, W.VA.–Neal Brown’s first recruiting class features 22 players, but 18 of them signed with West Virginia before he was hired as the Mountaineers’ head coach on Jan. 5.
Sixteen of them inked their National Letters of Intent on Dec. 19 when Dana Holgorsen was still WVU’s head coach, while two more were on the Mountaineer roster, but not eligible for play, in 2018. Holgorsen left for Houston a couple weeks later, and less than a week after that, Brown was named as his replacement.
Those 18 who had signed with the Mountaineers were left spinning, and Brown’s first order of business, before he could fill out the rest of the class of 2019 with new prospects, was to re-recruit the old ones.
“The way we approached it was to look at them as new recruits, without a doubt,” explained Brown. “We want people who want to be here.
“Either myself, or someone with our staff, went and visited each one of those student-athletes, and we were able to host those guys through the NCAA rules on a second official visit for most of them,” continued WVU’s new head coach. “So, just by building a relationship, not only with them but with their families or the people that are really important to them, they felt comfortable with West Virginia. They felt comfortable that a lot of the pieces of why they chose West Virginia are still here and still common with our staff. They just needed some reassurance and the opportunity to spend time with our staff. That’s how we approached it. I give a lot of credit to our staff. We were able to keep all those guys, and I’m excited about them. I thought the previous staff did a really good job of identifying talent, not only on the playing field but academically. These are good kids.”
Ultimately all 18 of the previous signees decided to stay true to their prior commitment. It was a unique situation, as this is only the second year for the early Letter of Intent period, so it’s rare that a recruit would sign with one coaching staff in December but ultimately have that head coach replaced before they ever enrolled.
“I think it has only happened one other time at the Power 5 level,” noted Brown. “I think when Kevin Sumlin was hired at Arizona (on Jan. 14, 2018, replacing Rich Rodriguez, who was fired 12 days prior), he had a similar situation in the fact that a group of players signed in December under a previous coach, and then he took a job after that signing day. So, there’s not a lot of precedent, so what we did was we went about re-recruiting those guys.”
After locking down the previous signees, Brown and his staff went about trying to fill at least some of the seven scholarship slots WVU’s class still had available.
His initial recruit came quickly, as former Oklahoma quarterback Austin Kendall enrolled at West Virginia as a grad transfer on Jan. 17.
“The No. 1 thing we probably needed to add was a quarterback, and I thought we were very fortunate to get a guy in Austin, who I feel like has been really well schooled,” said Brown, who came to WVU after spending four years as the head coach of Troy. “We only had two quarterbacks on scholarship, and we have to have more guys in that room. That’s college football. The game is played so fast in this league and you play so many plays, you better have at least three quarterbacks in that room that are capable of playing.
“I have a lot of trust in (junior) Jack Allison, and I like (redshirt freshman) Trey (Lowe). I think it’s going to be a great competition as we move into spring and fall camp.”
After getting Kendall enrolled, the Mountaineers were then able to convince three additional high school prospects to commit to WVU – Jordan Jefferson (DT, 6-4, 300 lbs., Navarre, Fla.), Rashean Lynn (S, 6-5, 200 lbs., Cocoa, Fla.) and Tavian Mayo (CB, 5-11, 180 lbs., Leesburg, Ga.). Those three signed National Letters of Intent with West Virginia on Wednesday.
“(Jefferson), if you look at his senior year, you’ll understand why his recruiting really exploded like it did, especially in the last six weeks,” said Brown. “He’s a guy that has an opportunity to be a plus player on the defensive line in this league. And he’s versatile; he can play nose or the three technique.
“(Mayo) had a relationship with the previous staff. He actually had taken an official visit here, so he liked West Virginia. So, we were able to close that late, and that was an important pickup for us,” explained Brown. “If you look, we’re really heavy with juniors, really, rising seniors now, at that (cornerback) position. Tay is athletic, he can run, he’s going to have an opportunity to come in and compete right away, and he has a chance to be a starter here for several years.
“Rashean is 6-foot-4-plus, almost 6-foot-5. He has a ton of skillset, and he has as much upside as anybody in this class. He played a lot of receiver and (defensive back) in high school. We’re going to start him off in the secondary as a safety,” continued Brown. “As you all know, you can’t have too many (defensive backs) in the Big 12. He’s a guy that has length, and we can try as hard as we want to coach it, but you either have length or you don’t, and he’s big, and he’s long, and he has an opportunity to play that centerfield position on defense and really cover a lot of ground in the backend. So, we’re excited about him.”
The 18 who signed in December combine with the four most recent additions to form a 22-member the class of 2019 at WVU. That leaves West Virginia with three available scholarships still to use to reach the NCAA max of 25.
“It’s to be determined,” Brown said of his targets for those final three scholarships. “We want to try and find the three best players. If we don’t, then we’ll push them over to next year. I do know this, just as a scholarship-number standpoint, we have some depth issues on the offensive line and defensive line.”