Assessing the Mountaineers’ Portal Performance
With the open portal windows closed, we look at the West Virginia Mountaineers’ offseason performance in the transfer portal. In assessing the Mountaineers’ portal performance, we acknowledge, of course, that graduate transfers can still enter the portal. We also understand that WVU still has two open scholarships to give heading into the 2023 season. We fully expect they will add two more transfers heading into Fall camp as they assess player development over the Summer. That said, we have a good idea of who left and who joined over the offseason.
Some Painful Losses
We start with the worst of the Mountaineers’ losses through the portal. The worst losses from the 2022 roster to the portal seem obvious enough. Kaden Prather represented an emerging talent with plenty of untapped potential who would be counted on to replace the graduating receivers. Instead, he chose to transfer to rival Maryland. Jordan Jefferson represented a vocal leader and imposing body on the defensive line who would have helped offset the loss of Dante Stills. Next season, Jefferson will find himself suiting up for LSU instead. Finally, Charles Woods could have been the best-returning cornerback in the Big 12 next year. Instead, he joins a troubling volume of outgoing members of a thin secondary and will suit up for SMU next season.
247Sports’ transfer rating system agrees with our assessment. Prather and Jefferson received four-star transfer ratings, while Woods fell one point shy of the four-star threshold with an 89 rating. Their system also rated Tony Mathis as an 88 and Lanell Carr as an 85. However, both players found themselves buried on the depth chart despite multiple seasons with the program.
Losses to Depth
Given that West Virginia added just 14 through the portal and lost 22, we expect to see some losses to depth at several positions. The numbers bear that out. The hardest hit position groups were cornerback, which lost six players to the portal, and defensive line, which lost four. The offensive line was the only other position group to lose more than two (it lost three). At cornerback, we wonder whether some of the attrition was “forced,” as none of the outgoing transfers found themselves on a Power Five roster and only one (Woods) even received a transfer rating. That said, the position group has just seven players on scholarship heading into the Summer. Losing the volume hurts.
On the defensive line, the aforementioned Jefferson certainly hurts the room, as the Mountaineers find themselves in a particularly difficult spot on the interior. Taijh Alston and Taurus Simmons offered edge rushing skill sets that could prove sorely needed, and Aric Burton represented a promising late addition to the Mountaineers’ 2022 recruiting class who no longer represents a future depth piece for the program. Of the four defensive linemen now gone, two found new homes in the Power Five ranks. In addition to Jefferson, Alston joins Colorado for the 2023 season. Burton and Simmons’ homes are presently unknown.
On the offensive line, Jordan White accumulated meaningful snaps at multiple spots on the offensive line. He represents the single-biggest “depth” loss from the outgoing transfers as a result. White joins Liberty for the 2023 season. Chris Mayo (Eastern Michigan) and Dylan Ray (unknown) fill out the losses to this position group.
The portal taketh away, but it also giveth. We repeat the phrase each year. Just like high school recruits, it remains to be seen just how well the new faces will fit the existing roster. That said, two players with four-star transfer ratings join the Mountaineers for the 2023 season. Devin Carter joins the wide receiver room from NC State. He earned a 91 rating, falling just one point shy of the 92 rating Prather earned. While Carter has just a single year to play, he might represent a piece-for-piece trade. Surprisingly to some, Montre Miller, the cornerback from Kent State, earned a four-star rating as well. Indeed, he rated higher than Woods according to 247Sports. Since both have just a year of eligibility remaining, Miller could represent a slight upgrade at the position.
The Mountaineers added a total of four defensive linemen through the portal. Only one (Davoan Hawkins) enters the season as a senior. Though he joins from Tennessee State, Hawkins earned an 88 rating from 247Sports. Along with Hawkins, Tyrin Bradley (Abilene Christian) and Tomiwa Durojaiye (Kentucky) represent exterior linemen. Fatormah Mulbah joins the roster from Penn State as the lone interior lineman.
West Virginia also added four wide receivers from the portal, representing a net gain to the position room of two bodies. Carter offers the most polished and game-ready. J’Shaun Poke (Kent State) and EJ Horton (Marshall) both earned 88 ratings from 247Sports. Poke may prove to be a critical weapon in the return game, and Horton’s speed made him a coveted transfer target this offseason. Noah Massey represents the final addition to this room.
Finally, the Mountaineers added Beanie Bishop from a vaunted Minnesota defense to its cornerback group and Kole Taylor from LSU to its tight end room. Taylor showed some game-breaking ability at the position during the Spring game. At six feet, seven inches, he also represents a massive target that should encourage Head Coach Neal Brown to finally incorporate the tight end routinely into the offense.
Assessing the Mountaineers’ Portal Performance
Overall, the portal represents a mixed bag for West Virginia. The Mountaineers added some players at needed positions with proven skills. That said, proven Power Five talent is missing. Even Carter has had limited production over his career at NC State. Additionally, the Mountaineers add a high concentration of their incoming transfers from the G5/FCS/DII ranks, with just five of the 14 incoming players coming from the Power Five ranks. Certainly, a player does not have to come from the Power Five ranks to meaningfully contribute. Take Charles Woods as a big example of that proposition. That said, the staff would have to beat the odds significantly to see more than a few meaningful contributors from this transfer class.
Photo courtesy: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports