After the dust has settled from the College Football Playoff, coaching hiring and firings, and transfers, it seemed that the West Virginia University football program was in a little bit of trouble.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen took the same position at Houston. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital took the head coaching job at Texas State. Will Grier, David Sills, David Long, and Yodny Cajuste are all gone for the NFL. It seemed like the next starting quarterback was going to be wildly inexperienced.
The narritave around Morgantown has since changed.
WVU hired Troy’s Neal Brown as its head coach. Brown led Troy to three-straight seasons with ten or more wins (2016-2018)- highlighted by a 24-21 win in Death Valley against LSU in 2017. In that same span, Troy won three straight bowl games. Brown owns a 35-16 record at Troy.
When hired to be the Mountaineers 34thhead football coach, it has been nothing but positives said about the Kentucky native.
He has been dubbed a “players coach,” reaching out to players and saying all the right things. During his farewell to the Troy fanbase, Brown did not give himself any credit, saying that it was a collective effort to get Troy’s first ever appearance in the AP Top 25.
In addition, since his hiring, Brown has been able to keep all the recruits that signed on during the Holgorsen regime. While Brown has not brought on any new recruits, he was hired after the early signing period passed.
In the recruiting class Brown is taking on is 18 signed recruits, including two four-star players. The WVU class is the 44th ranked class overall.
While Brown has not brought on any new 2019 high school recruits, he managed to snag a grad transfer quarterback from a conference rival.
Austin Kendall was a four-star recruit coming out of Cuthbertson High School in North Carolina. He was the ninth ranked pro-style QB in his class. He now has big shoes to fill after two years of Will Grier being the head of the offense.
Kendall was stuck behind two Hesiman Trophy winners-Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray- the last two seasons in Norman. While he is a talented QB in his own right, almost no one would have beaten out those two for the starting job.
When Lincoln Riley and the Sooners landed former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, Kendall became expendable for Oklahoma.
There was some doubt about Kendall transferring to WVU, as Riley blocked him from going to Morgantown. There was plenty of backlash on social media, ultimately leading OU to let Kendall transfer out of the program and to join West Virginia- he is a grad transfer, meaning he can transfer anywhere and play right away without any problems.
Kendall’s weapons on offense will include Jovani Haskins, TJ Simmons, Martell Pettaway, Kennedy McKoy, Alec Sinkfield, and Leddie Brown.
WVU’s defense remains questionable, as Dravon Askew-Henry, Kenny Bigelow, Jabrill Robinson, Toyous Avery, and the aforementioned Long are all gone.
Brown brought in his defensive coordinator from his time at Troy, Vic Koenning. The Trojans ranked 31stin total defense in 2018, allowing 347.9 yards and 22 points per game.
Things have been looking positive for WVU since the start of 2019. Neal Brown has the Mountaineers on the right track after some questions once the season ended. Maybe West Virginia will not be taking a step back after all.