For years, Mountaineer fans have lamented West Virginia’s lack of success in recruiting many of the state’s top in-state prospects. Head Coach Neal Brown promised a renewed focus on keeping in-state talent at home, and he immediately prioritized this goal. As a result of those efforts, fans looked on as West Virginia’s top-rated in-state prospect, Wyatt Milum, commits to West Virginia over the weekend.
— Wyatt Milum (@MilumWyatt) March 7, 2020
Recent History with In-State Prospects
The Mountaineers’ recent history with in-state prospects represents a mixed bag. As we wrote a few seasons ago, West Virginia retains a higher percentage of its in-state talent than most Power 5 schools. But West Virginia also does not traditionally produce as much talent as other states. Over recent years, however, the Mountain State’s talent level rose quite dramatically, and the Mountaineers were unable to cash in.
In the 2019 class, for example, West Virginia high schools produced three blue-chip prospects. Darnell Wright, a composite five-star recruit ranked tenth overall by 247Sports, signed with Tennessee. Doug Nester, a four-star recruit, signed with Virginia Tech. And four-star tight-end Brenton Strange signed with Penn State. West Virginia struck out completely. And, in this case, it was, indeed, for lack of effort.
All that class did was add fuel to the fire. In-state sentiment was clear: the prior coaching staff simply did not care to invest in the relationships and recruit in-state talent with any clear intention or focus. After all, other Power 5 recruits left the state to play elsewhere, too. Billy Ross. Dorian Etheridge. Seth Stewart. Riley Locklear. Ryan Switzer. Those are the big names, but they were not the only ones.
Brown Turns it Around
Coach Brown, however, promised to fix that particular problem. And he set out to do just that with clear and precise intention. He immediately worked on building relationships with high school coaches around the state. Wright, in fact, famously tweeted that Brown and staff put in more effort to recruit him in the couple of weeks between Brown’s hiring and National Signing Day than the prior staff put in over the prior two years.
Based on those efforts, Brown brought the two top-ranked in-state recruits into the Mountaineers’ 2020 recruiting class. He did so despite an initial early commitment by Sean Martin to North Carolina. He and his staff kept pounding the pavement, however, and they added Martin to the class late in the cycle.
Now, the Mountaineers add a commitment from Wyatt Milum, arguably the top in-state prospect for the 2021 recruiting class. Milum also hails from Spring Valley High School, in Huntington. That territory has been notoriously difficult recruiting ground for West Virginia. Excuses abound for why, but the most obvious reason is this: there is simply no love lost between Marshall and West Virginia. But Brown made clear from the beginning that Milum was a multi-year priority. Brown was not just going to throw in the towel based on the excuses many gave for why West Virginia could not land top-level recruits from the Huntington area.
Milum’s commitment proves that Huntington is not the impenetrable fortress fans once thought it was.
Milum’s Commitment In The Big Picture
Unfortunately, because of the lingering perception of in-state recruiting, the “big” story is how Brown so quickly changed the Mountaineers’ in-state fortunes. But the recruit himself deserves attention. For a while, many thought Milum might forego football altogether to cash in on his professional baseball prospects. But Milum made clear this past season that he would pursue football first. Milum had a who’s who list of potential suitors, but he received the hardest pushes from Alabama, Notre Dame, Penn State, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. By all accounts, he had very real offers from each of those schools.
This, of course, makes Milum’s commitment to West Virginia that much more impressive. But it also highlights the quality skill set Milum brings to the table. At 6’6, 273 pounds (with room to grow), Milum has tackle size and strength. According to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, Milum is the 81st-ranked recruit in the nation. But 247Sports’ own rankings value him even higher, giving him the 24th-best rating in the 2021 class. Milum’s combination of size, strength, and technique earn him such a lofty rating, and, according to most scouts who have watched him, Milum has very real first-round potential.
Milum represents a very welcome addition to the Mountaineer family.