MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Neal Brown’s first signing day at West Virginia was a case of addition by avoiding subtraction.
On paper, nothing jumps out as extraordinary about the 2019 class, which Rivals ranks 47th nationally and seventh in the Big 12. But Brown’s primary duty when taking over for Dana Holgorsen in January was keeping the 16 players Holgorsen signed in December on board.
“We went about re-recruiting guys. Either myself or someone on staff visiting each of those student-athletes,” Brown said. “They felt comfortable with West Virginia. They just needed some reassurance.”
Brown kept an open mind about the re-recruitment process. If any player was uncomfortable with the coaching change, he was not going to hold them to the letter of intent they signed in December. Likewise, he didn’t pore over video of his inherited class in hopes of discarding players that did not fit his style of play.
They had already committed themselves to West Virginia, and Brown put the onus on himself to keep them here.
“It wasn’t about assessing. All these guys had already made their decisions,” Brown said. “All these guys had already flipped that page into college. Their whole world just got shook up. A coaching change happened and they didn’t ask for it.
“It wasn’t about us making a decision. They all fit athletically with what we want to do. It was about making sure they felt comfortable with situation here. We weren’t going to hold anyone hostage.”
It didn’t hurt that Brown was already familiar with the players in the class who are from Georgia and Florida. In particularly, running back Tony Mathis was a pipe dream of Brown’s when he was coaching at Troy.
“Most of the time players go to coaches. This coach had to go to the player,” Brown said. “At Troy, Tony was like our No. 1 guy at running back forever. He had a whole lot of offers, so we didn’t have success getting him to Troy. But I loved the way he ran. We had a relationship and we knew his game.”
After securing the December class, Brown moved on to what he describes as filling immediate needs. Foremost was getting a third quarterback on the roster, which he did in the form of Oklahoma graduate transfer Austin Kendall.
“We needed a guy who could compete immediately with only two guys in the room and Trey Lowe playing baseball this spring,” Brown said.
The Mountaineers also added three additional recruits on signing day — safety Rashean Lynn, defensive tackle Jordan Jefferson and cornerback Tavian Mayo.
Brown alluded to the fact the Mountaineers also made a run at five-star Huntington offensive tackle Darnell Wright, who chose Tennessee.
“It was a valiant effort,” Brown said of recruiting Wright without mentioning him by name.
That leaves three spots available for transfers or late signees. Brown said those spots probably could have been filled Wednesday, but he would rather make sure West Virginia has the right guys rather than rushing to fill a quota.
“A mistake a lot of people make in this situation is you can really reach for guys. We were careful,” Brown said. “We have three open spots. We’re better served waiting.”
A capsule look at the three players who signed Wednesday:
CB, 5-11, 180, Leesburg, Ga. Rivals three-star
Part of back-to-back state championship teams at Lee County High. Registered 31 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions as a senior. Recorded seven interceptions and returned three for touchdowns as a junior… Other offers included Nebraska, Duke, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Maryland, Michigan, N.C. State, Pitt and South Florida.
DT, 6-4, 300, Navarre, Fla. Rivals unrated
Finished his career at Navarre High playing in 27 games and finishing with 115 tackles, including 68 solo, 11 sacks, 35 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two blocked field goals… Other offers included Louisville, Kansas State, Florida Atlantic and Louisiana-Lafayette.
WR/S, 6-5, 184, Cocoa, Fla. • Rivals three-star
Lynn is one of three defensive players to commit to West Virginia in the late signing period. Recruited by many programs as a receiver, he was drawn by the chance to play defense for the Mountaineers. Has unusual length for a safety, bringing to mind former Seattle Seahawks Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor … Other offers included Florida, Oregon, Kentucky, Louisville, Virginia, Purdue, Indiana and Cincinnati.
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