MORGANTOWN — The dust is settling on star defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor’s abrupt decision to transfer from WVU, but that decision is still weighing on the mind of head coach Neal Brown following Saturday’s spring practice.
“We have free agency and it is 365, 24/7. There’s not another enterprise that has free agency 365, 24/7,” Brown said. “We have to have some time frames around the free agency.”
“There are things that go around the portal that I don’t think are right, but I don’t think this is the forum to talk about it. There are other means to clean some of that up. My job is, ‘OK, here is what we’re dealing with and here are the rules, how do we respond to them and play them into our advantage?’ We’ve got to figure that out.”
On Thursday, Brown announced Mesidor was entering the transfer portal, going as far as saying he was “hurt” and “sad,” reiterating the relationship Brown and the coaching staff built with Mesidor over the last two years.
While Brown indirectly pointed to shady business happening within college football, with Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) being a starting point for tampering from other coaches and programs, Mesidor posted on social media he was making a decision that was best for him, even saying he was starting to feel unsafe on campus.
But just minutes after his message about his intent to leave, Mesidor posted he had an offer from USC, and has since shared he has offers from SEC programs like Tennessee and Auburn.
While Mesidor’s exit is likely the biggest in terms of impact on the field, the number of scholarship players who have left since August last year is approaching 20. Brown assures it is not a problem within the program.
“We don’t have a culture problem here,” Brown said. “If you look at the sideline and you look and see how the kids interact and you look at the staff and the player interactions, those are really clear to me.”
While it’s difficult to think of a replacement for Mesidor, a former freshman All-American and All-Big 12 performer, at nose tackle, Brown said he will take a wait-and-see approach whether to add one through the portal. He is going to give current members of the roster a chance to prove themselves, first.
“I think it is too early to tell. I will be able to tell you after 15 practices,” Brown said. Cincinnati transfer “Zeiqui Lawton, he is going to get a ton of reps. We want to see Eddie [Vesterenin], he is not out there during the spring right now. We hope he can get back and do some drills toward the end of it.
“Jalen Thornton is a guy you have heard me mention. I think he continues to get better. This is going to be a huge spring for him. Jordan Jefferson was established from about the mid-point of last year. There’s some games where he started and played a ton of snaps. We feel good about the direction he is trending. Dante [Stills] gives us some flexibility. We are keeping him out of the full tackle stuff. Taurus Simmons is a guy we really need to come on. Sean Martin — I think this is going to be a huge spring for him. He flashed today.”