WVU’s Neal Brown hustled to complete 2019 recruiting class

February 7, 2019
West Virginia University's head football coach Neal Brown gestures during a news conference in Morgantown on Jan. 10. Brown hit the ground running on the recruiting trail after his hire to make sure the WVU recruiting class remained intact.

MORGANTOWN — New West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown was in a unique predicament trying to put the finishing touches on the Mountaineers’ 2019 recruiting class.

Brown took over as the head coach in early January after Dana Holgorsen’s departure for the University of Houston and had to pretty much immediately go to work to make sure the 18 players who signed early with the Mountaineers stayed with the program following Holgorsen’s exit.

That endeavor was a resounding success for Brown, who kept all of West Virginia’s December signings and added three more Wednesday to bring the total for this year’s recruiting class to 21 players.

“It’s been a hectic first month, but we’ve accomplished a lot,” Brown said. “The top priorities for us was really two-fold. No. 1 was really developing relationships with our players that are currently on our roster and the second thing was solidifying those guys that signed in December.

“A lot of credit to our staff, and when I say staff I’m not just talking about our assistant coaches, but everybody that is involved in recruiting.”

Brown said he and his staff approached the situation like those 18 previously signed players were new recruits and went to work on selling them, again, on West Virginia.

“We want people that want to be here,” Brown said. “It’s a unique situation. I think it’s only happened one other time at the Power 5 level — I think when Kevin Sumlin was hired at Arizona he had a similar situation in the fact that a group of players signed in December under a previous coach then he took the job after that signing day. Not a lot of precedent, so what we did is we went about re-recruiting those guys. Either myself or someone on my staff went and visited each one of those student-athletes and then we were able to host those guys through the NCAA rules on a second official visit for most of them.”

His method worked. Wednesday he added three more to that group — all on the defensive side of the ball

Defensive lineman Jordan Jefferson will give the Mountaineers another large presence in the trenches at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds. Brown said he and several members of his staff have had a long relationship with the Navarre, Florida, native going back to their days at Troy University — Brown’s previous stop before coming to WVU.

“Navarre is about two hours away from Troy, so he’s a kid that we’ve really known since he was a freshman — end of his freshman year going into his sophomore year of high school,” Brown said. “He’s a big, physical (player). The thing I like about him is he has a calm demeanor — he’s never too high, he’s never too low.

“He’s a guy I think has an opportunity to be a plus player on the defensive line in this league.”

Cornerback Tavian Mayo, listed at 5-11 and 180 pounds from Lee County High School in Georgia, was on Brown’s radar at Troy, where several of Mayo’s high school teammates were on the roster.

“We knew about him, and the logo switch was very effective,” Brown said of Mayo. “He had a relationship with the previous staff. He had taken an official visit here and he liked West Virginia so we were able to close that late.

“He’s athletic and can run. He’s going to have an opportunity to come in and compete right away. He has a chance to be a starter here for several years.”

Safety Rashean Lynn rounds out Wednesday’s signings for WVU. Lynn, listed at 6-5 and 200 pounds from Highland Springs High in Richmond, Virginia, could be an impact player for the Mountaineers according to Brown.

“He has as much upside as anybody in this class,” Brown said. “He played a lot of receiver and DB in high school. We’re going to start him off in the secondary as a safety, and as you all know you can’t have too many DBs in the Big 12. He’s a guy who has length. We can try as hard as we want to to coach it, but you either have length or your don’t, but he’s big and he’s long. He’ll have the opportunity to play that center-field position on defense and really cover a lot of ground on the back end.”

One player new to the WVU program but not among this year’s signing class is graduate transfer quarterback Austin Kendall, who left the University of Oklahoma last month to join the Mountaineers.

Kendall had a previous relationship with Brown going back to when he was recruited out of high school in North Carolina in addition to his brother playing for Brown when he was the offensive coordinator at the University of Kentucky, so he was a good fit. Kendall or not, Brown knew he was going to need to bring in another quarterback to add some depth at the position for WVU.

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