WVU’s Grad Transfer Influx Started As A Trickle But Now A Steady Stream
It’s an NCAA rule that has only been in effect for a little more than a decade, but West Virginia’s football program has been taking advantage of the opportunities basically since the beginning.
We’re talking about the graduate transfer market, which was first approved by the NCAA in 2006. Since then, the Mountaineers’ use of grad transfers has grown from a trickle to a regular occurrence. That follows the same upward arc of FBS programs in general. According to NCAA statistics, in 2011 there were just 17 in all of Division I football. That number grew annually to the point that there were 117 in 2016, which is the last year the NCAA has published such statistics.
West Virginia’s use of grad transfers has certainly grown as well.
The Mountaineers were one of the first major programs to land a significant grad transfer when the rule was initially implemented. Defensive back Ryan Mundy graduated Michigan in the spring of 2007, transferred to WVU shortly there after and was immediately eligible to play that fall. A native of Pittsburgh, Mundy became one of the Mountaineers’ defensive leaders in the 2007 season, emerging as West Virginia’s starting free safety and ultimately its fourth leading tackler in helping WVU to an 11-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. He then went on to an eight-year NFL career.
Mundy was the first of the grad transfer trickle to West Virginia that has now become a constant stream. In the last couple of months, WVU has filled several defensive holes with the signing of grad transfers defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow from USC, defensive back Denzel Fisher from UCLA and defensive lineman Jabril Robinson from Clemson. Each of those three have just one season of college eligibility remaining, but the Mountaineers hope they can provide experience, depth and talent to positions that previously didn’t have a ton of any of those assets.
When looking back at West Virginia’s past forays into the grad transfer pool, it best to first differentiate between the transfer categories, because not all transfers are the same.
A traditional football transfer comes from another four-year college. At WVU and other FBS schools, it doesn’t matter if the incoming transfer is coming from another FBS school or from one in a lower division like D-II, D-III or NAIA, because such a transfer has to typically sit out what the NCAA calls a “year in residency” in which the transfer can practice with his new team but cannot participate in any games. A student-athlete moving down in the NCAA divisions (for instance from FBS to FCS) is immediately eligible for game activity. Sometimes FBS transfers can appeal to the NCAA to earn immediately eligibility (former Mountaineer offensive lineman Kyle Bosch did this after transferring to WVU from Michigan in 2015), but winning such an appeal is rare. Normally those transferring to FBS schools have to sit out one year.
A junior college transfer comes from a two-year community college and is immediately eligible at his new four-year university, as long as he meets the academic requirements.
And then there is the grad transfer, who earns his bachelor’s degree at one four-year school and then transfers to another FBS university for his master’s. As long as he obtained his undergrad degree, he’s immediately eligible at his new school. Often the grad transfer has just one year of eligibility remaining, but if he receives his bachelors with two years of eligibility remaining (as was the case when quarterback Clint Trickett came to WVU from Florida State in 2013), then he can spend both those seasons at his new home.
With Bigelow, Fisher and Robinson, West Virginia has now imported a total of 13 grad transfers since 2007. History shows us that just like every aspect of recruiting, grad transfers aren’t guaranteed success at their new school. Of WVU’s previous 10 grad transfers, six became at least part-time starters for West Virginia (Maurice Fleming, Shaq Riddick, Charles Sims, Clint Trickett, Devon Brown and Ryan Mundy). Cullen Christian saw regular action in the 2014 defensive secondary, but the other three (Corey Winfield, Steve Poskorz and Devon Lyons) made little to no contribution in their single season with the Mountaineers.
While grad transfers may not come with guarantees, their success rate is still pretty good. Of the 10 who have gone through WVU already, three wound up in the NFL (Riddick, Sims and Mundy). Brown was a nice piece to West Virginia’s Orange Bowl championship season in 2011-12, and Trickett, despite his limited time, is still among the top 10 in WVU history in career passing yards (4,890). And who knows what Clint’s numbers ultimately would have been if he hadn’t been hurt in the last half of his senior year?
West Virginia now hopes its latest three grad transfers have a similar success rate this coming season.
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West Virginia’s All-Time Grad Transfers
2018 – Kenny Bigelow (DL, USC to WVU), Denzel Fisher (DB, UCLA to WVU) and Jabril Robinson (DL, Clemson to WVU)
2017 – Corey Winfield (DB, Syracuse to WVU)
2016 – Maurice Fleming (DB, Iowa to WVU)
2015 – none
2014 – Cullen Christian (DB, Michigan to Pitt to WVU), Shaq Riddick (DE, Gardner-Webb to WVU)
2013 – Charles Sims (RB, Houston to WVU), Clint Trickett (QB, Florida State to WVU)
2012 – none
2011 – Devon Brown (WR, Wake Forest to WVU), Steve Paskorz (LB, Notre Dame to WVU, played in only one game at West Virginia)
2010 – none
2009 – none
2008 – Devon Lyons (DB, Ohio State to WVU, left Mountaineers before the start of the regular season)
2007 – Ryan Mundy (DB, Michigan to WVU)