Over the past 36 hours, news trickled out that three Mountaineer safeties have entered the transfer portal. First, fans learned that star player Kenny Robinson was entering the portal. Then, Derrek Pitts followed suit. Finally, we learned that E.J. Brown was also transferring. Reactions have been mixed. But the most common theme was alarm. We provide a summary of the Mountaineers’ wins and losses with the portal this off-season to date. To cut to the chase, however, the sky is not falling in Morgantown.
The Outbound Transfers
In total, 10 Mountaineers have entered their names into the transfer portal, (247Sports keep a nice running tally of the players deciding to transfer here.)
Dontae Angus, who was not even on the roster during the regular season, entered the portal first. Then, starting center Matt Jones entered his name into the portal. The rumors surrounding this news showed Jones made a personal decision, not a football one. He decided to transfer to Youngstown State, which matched the early rumors.
Luke Hogan, a walk-on punter, also entered the portal around the time the University announced the hire of new head coach Neal Brown. Then, news broke that redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tyrese Allen would transfer. Fifth-year senior Jordan Adams also announced his intention to transfer.
Shortly after the Spring Game, deep threat Marcus Simms declared his plans to transfer. The move puzzled many at the time because Simms was due a large role in the offense moving forward. Fellow wideout Dillon Spalding, a rising redshirt freshman, announced he would transfer to James Madison in the following weeks.
Then, in late May, all-conference safety Robinson placed his name in the portal. Within 24 hours, starting defensive back Pitts followed suit. While the three starters (Simms, Robinson, and Pitts) set off a social media firestorm coalescing around the theme of doom and gloom, tweets from one player’s father, and subsequent media reports strongly suggest that at least two of the three were academic casualties. Reports from various sources all but confirm that was the case with Simms and Robinson. Finally, safety Brown entered his name into the portal.
In total, the Mountaineers lose 10 players to the transfer portal. One player was a walk-on punter. Another was not even on the roster. Two more are likely academic casualties. And another two transferred outside of FBS football for personal reasons. The other four appear to be transferring for reasons relating directly to uncertainty over the incoming coaching staff or playing time. Only four.
The Incoming Transfers
On the other hand, Coach Brown and his staff have added several incoming transfers to the program. First, Brown added Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall immediately after his arrival in Morgantown. He also added standout Temple wideout Sean Ryan, who played extremely well in his true freshman season. Then, Brown added junior-college offensive lineman John Hughes.
Several weeks later, He added Australian punter Max Hayes. Then, Brown added veteran quarterback Jarret Doege. Doege is the younger brother of Seth Doege, whom he coached during his tenure as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. Most recently, Brown added former five-star and top-twenty overall recruit George Campbell from Florida State to his receiver room. Outside of Kenny Bigelow, Campbell is the highest-rated recruit to ever enroll at West Virginia.
In total, West Virginia added six incoming transfers. And each of those transfers addresses an immediate need for the team.
The Sky is not Falling
Through the portal, the Mountaineers’ net loss is only four players. In a time of growing reliance on the portal by players, a part of the ever-evolving landscape of college football, this is only a minor loss. When compared to other transitions, this is even more of a blip. This is not to say that the loss of three starters will not be felt. The talents of Simms, Robinson, and Pitts will be missed. Pitts, in fact, made our list of top five defensive surprises before the season and made good on that prediction. But this also represents an opportunity for the Mountaineers’ extensive youth, especially at receiver and safety, to grow rapidly in a new system.
In some ways, perhaps, this is even a good thing. Even Tony Caridi said on the radio Wednesday that this was a “cleansing” of sorts and that Robinson and Simms, at least, would not have been on the roster no matter who was coaching West Virginia next season. With this “cleansing,” however, optimism in the final outcome of next season is low, at least externally. Brown’s recent tweets certainly don’t buy in.
— Neal Brown (@NealBrown_WVU) June 5, 2019
Either way, perhaps the staff and players will have an opportunity to shoulder the low expectations and use them as motivation to rise. We will soon find out. Either way, it should be clear that, in fact, the sky is not falling in Morgantown.