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COLUMN: Was the transfer portal a win or loss for WVU this offseason?


With just over three months until the start of the college football season and the summer lull about to hit hard, now is a good time to look back on just how the transfer portal affected the WVU football program since the end of the regular season in late November.

With immediate eligibility now granted for one-time transfers, the late April deadline to put your name in the portal to receive that designation has come and gone, so it’s safe to assume what the Mountaineers look like now is what they’ll look like when they take on Pitt on Sept. 1 at Heinz Field.

With the additions of JUCO safety Jaylon Shelton and James Madison transfer cornerback Wesley McCormick, it puts WVU at 82 scholarship players, so there is wiggle room to add at most three more before the season begins.

However, this doesn’t mean there won’t be a few surprises who could exit the program. Iowa’s Charlie Jones, an All-Big Ten performer as a returner last season, entered the portal this week despite missing April’s deadline. He could still play at his new school next season, but as a penalty, his paperwork will be shuffled to the bottom of the portal’s priority list and will need approval by the NCAA.

But head coach Neal Brown declared there will likely be attrition after spring camp.

So, under the assumption the current Mountaineers stay intact over the next three months, did head coach Neal Brown win or lose the portal game this offseason?

A lot of production on both sides of the ball announced they were leaving, especially defensively. The biggest standout is Akheem Mesidor, who caught the entire coaching staff off-guard when he was in position meetings one day and in the portal the next.

Mesidor ultimately transferred to Miami, reuniting with Jahmile Addae, who originally recruited him to WVU in 2019.

Other former starters who left are linebacker VanDarius Cowan (Maryland), cornerback Jackie Matthews (Mississippi State), cornerback Daryl Porter (Miami), linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo (Colorado) and cornerback Nicktroy Fortune (UTSA).

The offense wasn’t hit as hard, but Winston Wright showed potential as a play-making wide receiver and is now at Florida State. Likely a mutual parting, quarterback Jarret Doege is now at Western Kentucky.

Other key names include wide receiver Sean Ryan (Rutgers), tight end T.J. Banks (Akron), tackle Parker Moorer (East Carolina), wide receiver Isaiah Esdale (Rice) and tight end Charles Finley (TBD).

Looking at games started and stats from last season, there are a few significant players who decided to play elsewhere.

Looking at the additions through the portal, though, it can be argued the Mountaineers may have won the offseason.

The crown jewel is Georgia quarterback J.T. Daniels. His commitment completely changed the feel of the offseason, as well as the team’s potential heading into this season.

Prior, the Mountaineers were going to rely on a first-time starter in either Garrett Greene, Goose Crowder or Nicco Marchiol. Now, a guy who is listed in the preseason Heisman betting odds will get the nod, allowing time to groom the others.

Offensively, Clemson transfer Lyn-J Dixon will provide a home-run threat at running back Brown hasn’t had since he’s been here. Brian Polendey is a blocking tight end WVU has desperately needed during the same span.

Defensively, lineman Zeiqui Lawton, a Charleston native, will provide depth up front after spending a season at Cincinnati.

Marcis Floyd was an All-American cornerback at Murray State and moved to safety at WVU, hoping to follow a similar path as current starting CB Charles Woods, who was an All-American at Illinois State and is now heralded as one of the best in the Big 12 at his position.

Similar to Lawton, Georgia Tech transfer Michael Lockhart will plug into the nose tackle spot to provide depth.

Perhaps the best of the bunch is North Dakota State’s Jasir Cox. After winning a national title with the Bison, Cox wanted a shot to show off his versatility, so moving from linebacker to Spur safety gives the Mountaineers a hard-hitter at a position that was lacking a year ago.

Tirek Austin-Cave, a transfer from Miami, will help provide depth at linebacker. Rashad Ajayi’s signing was made official Friday, and he is the veteran presence at corner WVU needed after he appeared in 57 games at Colorado State.

Parker Grothaus was brought in from Florida State specifically be a kickoff specialist, something that was a major problem the last few years.

The Mountaineers replaced high production with depth and specific needs. Whether the newcomers work out or not remains to be seen.

But the roster turnover seems like a cleanse the program needed. This isn’t to say those who left were bad people or cancers in the locker room. Sometimes, it’s simply not a fit.

The ones who stayed and ones who came in are buying in to whatever Brown is preaching and seem to be “trusting the climb.”

It’s time for that buy-in to turn into wins.

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