MORGANTOWN — West Virginia took Matt Jones out of Youngstown, but it couldn’t take the Youngstown out of him.
Jones, a two-year starter at center for the Mountaineers, announced on Friday that he will return to his hometown and play as a graduate transfer at Youngstown State next season. The Penguins play at the FCS level, so Jones would be eligible to play even if he wasn’t earning his degree this May.
Jones addressed his decision to leave in a thoroughly written letter on Twitter, noting that it had nothing to do with West Virginia’s recent coaching change.
“The decision I am making has nothing to do with the recent staff change within the football program at WVU, and in turn, cannot be remedied or altered by said staff,” Jones wrote.
Jones went on to say that his decision was “well thought out and discussed with my fiancée and family in depth and is being made for my own personal well-being. This decision stems from many factors, the culmination of which makes it impossible for me to remain at WVU.”
Jones also spoke of his love for his rugged Ohio hometown — and its signature dish.
“In order to perform at my highest level, I have to be my best self and I truly believe that I am my best when I am home,” Jones said. “I can’t wait to be able to perform in front of friends and family, play for my hometown, and eat lots of Youngstown pizza.”
Pro Football Focus gave Jones an overall grade of 66.4 for his 732 snaps this season, ranking him fourth among West Virginia’s offensive linemen. One of those linemen, left tackle Yodny Cajuste, will likely be taken within the first two rounds of the NFL draft. Earlier this week, right tackle Colton McKivitz announced that he will return for his senior season.
Sophomore Jacob Buccigrossi challenged Jones for the starting job last August before being edged out. Buccigrossi isn’t necessarily a shoo-in to earn the position next season, though. In 99 snaps at center and guard this season, Buccigrossi earned a PFF grade of 46.9 — the lowest on the team for any offensive player for the Mountaineers.
Freshman Briason Mays, who redshirted this season, is the other scholarship center currently on WVU’s roster. Mays played with WVU quarterback Trey Lowe in high school.
West Virginia has seven scholarships remaining in this year’s signing class.