The NCAA transfer portal has officially become the free agency of college athletics. Each year, more and more names enter the portal, some of which end up returning to the school they intended on transferring from. With the NCAA now allowing immediate eligibility, it gives the athletes more of a reason to leave their current program if they had been contemplating it. Before, you were forced to sit out for a year at your new school which kept a lot of kids from transferring because they wanted to play. Since coaches can change schools at the drop of a hat and not have to sit out, why should players?
There are several reasons for a player to transfer and Myron Medcalf of ESPN said it as good as anyone could. "Stop assuming every transfer is a bad kid who can't handle tough coaching. No, some of these dudes just need to leave and start fresh."
Every fan base gets upset when a player decides to transfer from their beloved program and understandably so. But sometimes fans take it too far. The fact is, very few are going to actually say why they transferred. It could be because of projected playing time, change in coaching staff, change in scheme, grades, moving closer to home, or as Medcalf stated, just needing a fresh start.
In years past, if a program had as many as six or seven kids transfer out of the program, one would begin to think that something is going on with the coaching staff and that there isn't a high level of buy-in from the players. Now, six or seven players from a school hitting the portal is just the norm.
So far this offseason, 16 players from WVU have entered their names in the portal. Although it seems like a very high number, it's not as bad as one would think. Even head coach Neal Brown said that many of these were expected due to simply better opportunities for playing time elsewhere.
Today, we break down what WVU has actually lost and gained this offseason through the portal.
In transfer portal
QB Austin Kendall
After losing out on the starting job to Jarret Doege, this makes sense. Kendall can go start somewhere for his final year of eligibility, while WVU continues with Doege, Garrett Greene, and Will Crowder. The big picture here: Not a huge loss for WVU.
RB Lorenzo Dorr, RB Jason Edwards, WR Keion Wakefield, & WR Zack Dobson, WR Randy Fields Jr.
I'm grouping these five because none of them played a significant role for the Mountaineers and three of them are walk-ons. Dobson transferred into WVU from Middle Tennessee late but never played a single down.
CB Tavian Mayo & CB Tacorey Turner
I'm grouping these two because although they combined for very limited action, they were young corners that could have developed into decent role players. Corner is a spot where West Virginia needs to add some depth, so it was a little confusing to see each of them leave, but by no means was it a big hit to the roster - at least in terms of playing experience.
S Noah Guzman
Guzman had a decent year in 2019 totaling 24 tackles but saw his playing time diminish this past season. With Sean Mahone returning for another season at the CAT position, it makes sense for Guzman to move on and look for more playing time at another school.
S Jake Long
This past season, Long appeared in five games for the Mountaineers and totaled just four tackles in 112 snaps. For his career, Long made 12 tackles in 24 career games. He has dealt with a couple of injuries during his time at WVU which held him back in his development. He was injured his freshman year which caused him to be redshirted and then injured his wrist in 2018 forcing him to miss the entire season.
S Jayvon Thrift
Thrift came to WVU as a walk-on redshirted in 2019 and did not see any game action in 2020.
Transferred to a new school
S Tykee Smith ----> Georgia
There are two headscratchers on this list and this is the first one. Somewhere along the line, things grew stale between Smith and WVU. Neal Brown provided a little insight on his departure: “It’s a lot like some relationships that I’m sure everyone has been in - it just gets to a point where it’s best for both parties, and that’s kind of where we were,” said Brown. “Nothing negative to say about him and had a really good two years here being productive on the field, and we wish him the best.”
Smith was a star during his first two years in Morgantown and was a major reason that West Virginia became a top-five defense nationally in 2020. Arguably the biggest blow the portal has hit the Mountaineers with.
CB Dreshun Miller ----> Auburn
This one was definitely a bit of a surprise considering Miller started nine games in 2020 and was expected to be one of West Virginia's key pieces in the secondary in 2021. Not only was it a surprise to those on the outside, but Neal Brown said it was the one that took them by surprise the most. In nine games this past fall, Miller recorded 31 tackles, nine pass breakups, and one interception.
DE Jeffery Pooler Jr. ----> Northwestern
Pooler was not a high-level producer during the first three years of his career but really picked it up in 2020 having his best season yet. He finished with 26 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and three pass deflections. He would have been a starter in 2021 but Taijh Alston will now assume his role. If Alston remains healthy, there shouldn't be much of a drop-off.
QB Trent Jackson ----> Wheeling
This was a good move for Jackson. He walked on at WVU and learned under Will Grier and Jarret Doege and received coaching at the highest level of college football. He's too talented to be sitting on the sidelines in Morgantown. Now, he has the opportunity to go be the star of the show at D-II Wheeling University.
OL Blaine Scott ----> Northern Colorado
With the addition of Doug Nester and the return of several interior linemen, there doesn't seem to be much of a path for Scott to contribute. He's got the talent to be a starter but not at WVU. He appeared in a total of five career games as a Mountaineer.
OT Junior Uzebu ----> Vanderbilt, OL Briason Mays ----> Southern Miss
With Brandon Yates locking up the left tackle spot for the foreseeable future and highly touted prospect Wyatt Milum coming into the program, it would've been tough for either of these two to regain a starting role.
RB Alec Sinkfield ----> Boston College
Sinkfield has spent the majority of his career as a change-up back to Leddie Brown, Kennedy McKoy, and Martell Pettaway. With one year of eligibility remaining, it's hard to blame him for wanting a bigger role in an offense, which he won't have with Leddie returning for his senior season.
DT Quay Mays ----> Arkansas State, LB Charlie Benton ----> UAB
Added depth but saw very little game action.
WR Ali Jennings ----> Old Dominion
West Virginia has loaded up the wide receiver room with a bunch of talent and Ali Jennings saw his role in the offense slowly fade away. The addition of Kaden Prather just adds to the bundle of young talent WVU has at the position making it tough for Jennings to see the field. All that said, there's no doubt in my mind he'll be a solid player at ODU.
Transferred to WVU
OL Doug Nester (Virginia Tech)
During his time in Blacksburg, Nester started a total of 16 games including 10 as a true freshman. He should become an immediate impact for the Mountaineers up front in 2021 and could end up being the team's best offensive lineman.
LB Lance Dixon (Penn State)
Lance Dixon arrived at Penn State as a 4-star recruit with a high ceiling. PSU Defensive coordinator Brent Pry called Dixon the team's fastest linebacker who needed seasoning. Dixon made one start, against Ohio State, at outside linebacker and played pretty well: five tackles, a forced fumble. He can run but needs seasoning, particularly as an open-field tackler. With four years of eligibility, he can get there.
CB Charles Woods (Illinois State)
During his three seasons at Illinois State, Woods tallied 84 tackles, 27 pass deflections, and six interceptions. In 2019 he earned HERO Sports FCS Sophomore All-America honorable mention honors. Woods was also the Redbirds primary punt returner and could bring some additional value to the special teams unit for the Mountaineers.
To recap it all, really the only real losses for West Virginia, and they're big ones, are Tykee Smith and Dreshun Miller. Jeffery Pooler Jr. could also be considered a big loss due to his experience as a starter and the breakout year he had in 2020. However, the loss of Pooler is not as damaging as the losses of Miller and Smith. West Virginia has more depth up front meaning they can absorb the hit of Pooler a little better than they can with the two secondary guys bouncing. The Mountaineers fill three major needs with Nester on the offensive line, Dixon at linebacker, and Woods at corner. From a numbers perspective, it looks bad. However, once you break it all down, it's not as bad as it seems.
"It's changed college athletics," said head coach Neal Brown. "It's made the jobs of coaches harder but we're well compensated and we'll figure it out. We've only had one surprise and that was Dreshun [Miller], the rest of them you could kind of see coming and to this point, we've gained more than we've lost. We got one that's committed and that'll join us and we've got at least three other spots that we hope to fill through the portal or late high school or junior college guys. Our class is still going to be worked on. We'll need to address a couple of spots at defensive back and we hope to add another linebacker, so that's where we're at.
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