We provided our last update on the West Virginia Mountaineers’ 2021 football recruiting class in July. Given the NCAA’s ban of on-campus recruiting events, Head Coach Neal Brown has been forced to pivot from his deep-rooted preferences. Typically, Brown requires recruits to visit campus before he will accept their commitment. Despite the on-campus ban, however, Brown has added some key commitments to the class since our last update. We summarize those additions—and the current state of the class—in our Mountaineers’ October Recruiting Update.
Mountaineers’ October Recruiting Update
In July, we broke down the Mountaineers’ biggest targets and positions of need. We predicted they would add another running back. That said, we did not expect Brown to add another blue-chip prospect at the position. With Justin Johnson, however, he did. We anticipated another addition to the wide receiver room, and Brown flipped former-UCF commit Davis Mallinger. We noted that the Mountaineers had to focus on the linebacker/bandit group, and he added Ja’Corey Hammett out of Florida. Edward Vesterinen, out of Finland, also reclassified to the 2021 class, and he can fill the bandit role as well.
Importantly, the Mountaineers also added several transfers since our July update, all but one of whom are eligible to play this season. That said, given that the Mountaineers only had, at most, one spot left to fill in their 2020 class, those transfers will eat up 2021 scholarship spots. As a result, according to Brown, the Mountaineers have between five and seven scholarships left to fill.
2021 Recruiting Class
As usual, we identify the current commits for the class in the chart below. We follow that with their expected position and home state (or country). Finally, we provide each of the three major service’s recruiting “star” ranking. For 247Sports, we use their internal rankings, not their “composite” ranking. We consider a blue-chip prospect any prospect who has a ranking of at least 4 stars from any one of the major three services. The names of the new additions to the class since our most recent update appear in italics.
Recruiting Update: Positions Of Need
A brief look at the scholarship distribution chart for West Virginia makes one thing clear. As a whole, the team remains young. That said, some positions feature a lot of veteran depth. Indeed, at the linebacker/bandit position group, three of the Mountaineers’ 12 players are seniors. At safety, that number climbs to five of West Virginia’s 10 scholarship players.
Late in the off-season, the NCAA announced that 2020 was essentially a “free” year for all student-athletes. In other words, all players–no matter their prior circumstances or whether they play this season–get a redshirt in 2020. (We are not yet sure, however, how that will affect the maximum scholarship count of 85. In other words, will the extra-year seniors count towards that 85-scholarship cap. If so, what happens to the incoming freshman or Juco players?)
Recruiting Update: Balancing Act
That might make some of the immediate depth issues less immediate. At safety, for example, we imagine that older upstart players–perhaps Alonzo Addae–could opt to return for the 2021 season. Still, Brown must plan as if all seniors will opt to graduate and move on. Moreover, the questions surrounding how the extra year could impact total scholarship numbers may require deft balancing.
Regardless how Brown balances those issues, West Virginia needs to add a few linebackers and a few safeties, at least two of each. Brown will also look to add another offensive lineman and, perhaps, another wide receiver. Additionally, if the staff adds Wilson-Lamp to the wide receiver room instead of the cornerback room, then West Virginia could use a cornerback in the class as well.
Recruiting Update: Measuring The Class
To some, it may not seem like much. But, through our Mountaineers’ October recruiting update, Brown has added five blue-chip prospects to his second full class. West Virginia has not added that many blue chips in a single recruiting class since its 2010 class. Brown added four in his 2020 class and three in his 2019 class. Even if Brown fails to add another blue-chip in this class, he will have added the most blue chips (12) in a three-year period in the modern era of recruiting. And while we warn often that a blue-chip recruiting ranking does not guarantee individual success (see Jason Gwaltney) or that a collection of them does not guarantee team success (see the Texas Longhorns), they certainly do not hurt. Thus, even if the “climb” is perhaps slower and steadier than fans would hope, Brown is certainly climbing in the recruiting rankings.