How Will Transfers Affect West Virginia Football in 2020?

Daniel Woods

The West Virginia football team has dealt with quite a bit of attrition since Neal Brown’s arrival, as is common with coaching changes. With the likes of Kenny Robinson and Marcus Simms heading to the transfer portal, whether by choice or not, expectations took a hit for the Mountaineers ahead of the 2019 season. With six more players opting to head to the transfer portal since the season kicked off, there is an obvious impact that will be had on West Virginia in 2020.

QB Jack Allison

Captain Jack’s story in Morgantown was never written the way he wanted it to be. Highly recruited out of high school, he chose the Miami Hurricanes but looked to move on when Mark Richt replaced Al Golden and did not see Allison in the plans moving forward. After sitting out a year at West Virginia he spent 2018 as the backup to Will Grier and saw limited time before making his first career start in the Camping World Bowl. That performance left much to be desired and after Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege were brought in by Neal Brown, things looked bleak for the former four-star passer. Kendall won the starting job in fall camp and a brief appearance against Missouri showed little promise for Allison to push the Oklahoma transfer. Playing the bulk of the Iowa State game after a Kendall injury, lack of mobility and inaccuracy continued to plague Allison, leading to a loss to the Cyclones. In the days before the Texas Tech game, Brown announced that Allison would be finishing his degree and moving on from the program at the end of the semester. With Doege making his debut against the Red Raiders, the writing appeared to be on the wall. The Mountaineers have a full quarterback room with Elite 11 finalist Garrett Greene set to join it soon, leaving the impact of Allison’s departure rather small.

TE Jovani Haskins

From one Miami transfer to another, the potential that Jovani Haskins showed in 2018 never came to pass once he became the starter in 2019. Haskins looked like a worthy heir to Trevon Wesco but an offseason legal issue slowed the start of his season. From there, redshirt freshman Mike O’Laughlin seized the opportunity and his improvements as a blocker made him a better fit than the receiving focused Haskins. With O’Laughlin gaining praise as the year went along from the coaching staff and fellow redshirt freshman T.J. Banks seeing his first action as a blocking specialist late in the season, the younger players made it hard for Haskins to get on the field. West Virginia will also add a freshman to the group with 2020 recruit Charles Finley. Much like Allison, the emergence of more youthful players with higher ceilings resulted in Haskins being pushed out and his departure opens the door for those athletes to truly get the development they need.

WR Tevin Bush

Tevin Bush always showed playmaking ability and highlight potential at West Virginia but never turned it into high-level production. His work out of the slot and propensity for making plays in one-on-one matchups made him a seemingly perfect fit for Neal Brown’s offense. However, after a one game suspension against North Carolina State and the emergence of younger receivers, he hit the transfer portal in September with Brown stating the Louisiana native sought to be closer to home. The ceiling was always the draw of Bush and he never quite hit it. With a similar player in Winston Wright still having three years left to play and Isaiah Esdale making plays late in the season, the Mountaineers look set at inside receiver without even considering T.J. Simmons.

WR Ricky Johns

Ricky Johns came to West Virginia in a large class of safeties that included Pitts, Robinson, E.J. Brown, Collin Smith, and Johns, all of whom are now gone. He converted to wide receiver after a redshirt year but never even cracked the two-deep. He saw snaps in a few blowouts but had little impact on the team. He was buried on the depth chart and losing him will not affect one of West Virginia’s strongest position groups.

S Kwantel Raines

The Aliquippa pipeline looks to have dried up for the Mountaineers with the transfer of Raines. The latest of highly-touted Western Pennsylvania defensive backs to come to Morgantown, Raines was seen as a huge recruiting coup for Dana Holgerson but his effect on the field was minimal. Raines’ size made him a prime candidate for the SPEAR position but struggled to separate from former walk-on Dante Bonamico and was passed over in favor of true freshman Tykee Smith when another player yet to be discussed decided to transfer. He saw the field more late in the season but just couldn’t turn his potential into production. The loss of a young, high-ceiling player will hurt on paper but Smith looks to have locked up SPEAR for the next three years while Sean Mahone and Kerry Martin look like a great duo at CAT and free safety.

S JoVanni Stewart

Stewart became one of a few seniors this year to bench himself to save a redshirt and graduate transfer at the end of the season. The loss of the most experienced player left at safety looked like a huge hit but the performance of Tykee Smith was more than anyone could have expected. Stewart was a versatile player, seeing time at both safety and linebacker in his career, his heart was always the biggest part of his game. The loss of experience will be the most important deficit caused by his departure but how early it was gave younger Mountaineers opportunities to play. Stewart seems likely to head closer to home and the Katy, Texas native grew up less than an hour away from his former coach’s new home at the University of Houston.

The loss of these transfers will obviously have an effect on the Mountaineers but the immense amount of young talent on the roster will mostly make up for it. As the youth movement in Morgantown continues, more disgruntled veterans may see the transfer portal as an option.

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