Year two in the Neal Brown era is just around the corner and although the Mountaineers finished with a 5-7 record after his first year on the helm, he put together a well-respected recruiting class in 2020.
Now, the attention has been shifted to the 2021 class and thus far, Neal Brown and his staff are well ahead of the game by racking up some of the nation's top recruits.
The coaching staff has put an emphasis on collecting some offensive firepower and to help lead the charge will be quarterback Will "Goose" Crowder and offensive tackle Wyatt Milum. In 2019, Crowder completed just over 70% of his passes and threw for 2,615 yards and 25 touchdowns. On the other hand, Milum was widely considered one of the nation's top offensive lineman and held an offer from virtually everywhere. The momentum on the recruiting trail really picked up for West Virginia in the spring when they added running back Jaylen Anderson and wide receiver Kaden Prather. Both should see significant playing time early in Morgantown and should make an impact immediately. And let's not forget about the tight end position. Treylan Davis (Ohio) and Victor Wikstrom (Sweden) are going to provide the Mountaineers with plenty of depth and are two really promising prospects.
Defensively, the staff continued to value its international flavor by adding defensive end Edward Vesterinen of Finland. This was a gem of a find as Brown got in early on his recruitment before other Power Five schools came calling. Vesterinen is a workout warrior and has the build to be a contributor fairly early in his career. On the defensive line Vesterinen will be joined by Hammond Russell and Brayden Dudley. Both Russell and Dudley are likely to be stand up edge rushers and will be a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. Like Vesterinen, West Virginia got in early with Dudley and was able to snag a verbal commitment from him before his recruitment blew up. In the back end, Andrew Wilson-Lamp made the decision to switch from wide receiver to corner, which seems to be the right decision. He has great hands, but appears to be a better fit defensively and the Mountaineers have plenty of depth at receiver. Safety Saint McLeod could possibly be the biggest sleeper in this class. He had some national attention, but doesn't get the recognition he deserves. McLeod flies all over the field and can play multiple positions in the secondary at a high level. In 2019, he finished with 64 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions.
Although the Mountaineers aren't typically known to finish at the top of the recruiting rankings with some of the national powers, Neal Brown is on the path to changing that narrative.
Below are a list of West Virginia commits and targets named to the SI All-American watch list.
More than 1,000 student-athletes, representing every state in the country, are SI All-American candidates. Video highlights, scouting analyses and a breakdown of each player’s college verbal commitment and/or top college contenders can be found on their bio pages, broken down by state, at SIAllAmerican.com.
Over the coming weeks, SI will unveil its preseason top 10 for each of 14 position groups (kicking off with quarterbacks this week). SI will unveil its initial top 99 ranking, the SI99, on August 24.
The evaluation process will continue throughout the season “until the list of 1,000 contenders coalesces around just 25 young men who can say proudly they are the best of the best -- they are Sports Illustrated All-Americans,” said SI Director of Football Recruiting John Garcia, Jr.
The candidates will be narrowed to 250 in October and 99 in November, and will culminate with 25 first-team Sports Illustrated All-Americans saluted at SI’s annual Sportsperson of the Year banquet in New York in December.
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