In just the past two weeks, the WVU has had four players entering the NCAA transfer gate in attacking linebacker Parker Moorer, linebacker Vandarius Kwan, wide receiver Isaiah Esdale and end TJ Banks court. All three were on scholarship, and since the start of 2021 in early January, 25 WVU footballers entered the gate, the equivalent of a full recruiting class.
Last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak for the 2020 season, the NCAA jumped on the idea of giving players a pass to move freely with a penalty kick. Previously, most players, with a few exceptions, were required to sit for a season before they could qualify at their new school.
Later, the rule made a permanent addition, and with the portal, which has been in place since 2018, schools must place a player there within 48 hours of the initial request. From there, coaches from all over the country connect and engage with the player, essentially creating an entirely new recruiting environment.
So, back to the mountaineers, is the large number of their portal entries the nationwide standard for Power Five, or is there cause for concern within the program that should worry fans?
the answer? Maybe a little bit of both.
Each of the Power Five deals with transfers, and with rule changes, interest has only increased for players looking for different opportunities for different reasons.
Obviously the biggest chance in playing. You are recruited to play big college football to begin with proving enough to someone to believe they should have time to play. If it didn’t happen in their home school, they would go look for it elsewhere.
Since the beginning of October, 11 scholarship players have entered the portal. Of those, only two experienced significant time playing for Esdale and Cowan. Moorer was a rookie on the right tackle but was substituted in favor of real freshman Wyatt Millum.
Another NCAA COVID rule was to allow the 2020 season to be a “free” year, and a few players simply decided to use their extra year elsewhere. Former WVU quarterback Austin Kendall is a case in point, as he used his extra year to start at Louisiana Tech this season in lieu of backing Jarrett Dougie.
Perhaps the mountaineer’s two biggest losses since the rule change are defensive backs Tiki Smith and Drayshon Miller. Smith, an all-American in the WVU in 2020, left for Georgia, where he has been restricted this season with a ruptured ACL.
Miller moved to Auburn and later admitted in an interview that he left the WVU for the Tigers because he thought Auburn could raise his NFL profile.
Instead, Miller is buried on the depth chart and hasn’t scored a single defensive stat this season, proving that the grass isn’t always greener and the gate can work against you.
Regardless of the reason for the transfer, 28 players seem to be an incredibly large number, so where does WVU stack up against the rest of the 12?
The second biggest event in the conference now is Oklahoma, with 19, but Team Sooner is dealing with a change in coaching when Lincoln Riley left for USC. Behind OU is Texas, sitting at 18 after a 5-7 season.
The Mountaineers ’28 is a big jump from the closest next in the Big 12, so why is the WVU number so high? There is a strong chance of timing for coach Neil Brown’s arrival and the pandemic is in line with a harsh turn of fate.
There is a typical turnover every time a coach leaves and a new employee is hired. Of the 25 players in the Gate Scholarship in 2021, 14 were recruited and signed by Dana Holgursen before his exit in late 2018. Three more were transferred to the WVU with limited eligibility anyway, and things probably didn’t work out in the end – Kendall, Defensive Daryl Middleton and full back Bryce Brand intervened.
Then make changes to the rules made due to COVID, and transferring is easier than ever in 2020, which is Brown’s second season in Morgantown. It can be hard to keep players happy who originally signed up to play with the previous coach, and then add in younger players who might see the writing on the wall early in their careers as another challenge.
There’s no denying that the number of WVU players in the gate is staggering, but the Mountaineers will also benefit from it and the immediate eligibility base as well. Looking at this season, attacking goalkeeper Doug Nester, Charles Woods and linebacker Lance Dixon have made a huge impact.
Former Clemson running back Lyn-J Dixon is already on board for 2022.
So take a deep breath, what appears to be a mass exodus from the program is not an indictment on this coaching staff or a list of disaffected. It has more to do with the ever-changing landscape of college football and more player-friendly rules that have been passed by the NCAA.
It happens everywhere, even in the likes of Alabama and Cincinnati, two teams at College Football Playoff. It’s time for old college football to accept – grind it and make time to play – it may be about to end.