A quick glance at our depth chart with an eye for 2020 and beyond reveals several glaring holes. Fortunately for us, Real Deal Neal is on the case, and has already secured a handful of commitments (and made progress on several more) that should help plug those holes before they end up sinking our proverbial ship. Let’s take a look at where we are so far.
The highest priority is obviously at quarterback, so we'll start there. Jack Allison and Austin Kendall will both be gone in two years, Jarret Doege is an unknown, and Trey Lowe hasn't yet shown himself to be capable of being a quality starter at a program with our aspirations. That means we're absolutely in the market for a long-term solution at QB.
Enter Garrett Greene. Greene is a rising senior from Chiles High School in Tallahassee, FL who became the second member of #TakeMeHome20 when he committed on March 7th. 247Sports currently rates him as a high-level 3-star prospect with an 0.884 composite rating, which makes him the 15th-ranked dual-threat QB in the class, but his performances on the recruiting circuit this spring have a bunch of us here at the Musket feeling that a 4-star bump may be in his future.
I'm not sure if it's Greene's size that had him flying under the radar (he's a shade under 6'0) or simply that the volume of talent in Florida makes it easy to do so, but whatever the reason I'm glad that Neal got in on him early. Non-prototypical size aside, Greene has a fantastic skill set for what I understand Neal Brown's offensive MO to be - first and foremost, he makes quick decisions, but he also has both the arm and the legs needed to execute on those decisions the majority of the time. Regarding the former, he appears to be very accurate both from the pocket and on the run, and is crucially able to avoid the trap that a lot of young guys with big arms fall into where they feel the need to drill it in there on every throw. Greene doesn't do that - he throws with the appropriate touch and trajectory to put the ball in places where his guys can catch it and run. As for the latter, he's not particularly elusive in the open field but is obviously a very good athlete, much in the way that pre-dad bod Will Grier was. I know I'm probably not driving here, but I'd to think that I'm at the very least riding shotgun on the "this dude is gonna be a great college quarterback" bandwagon, and I wouldn't be totally shocked if he's starting for us as early as next year.
Our next highest priority is probably cornerback, not only because of our membership in the pass-happy Big 12, but also because four of the top five guys currently on our roster are seniors. The first wave of reinforcements are already on campus in the form of true freshmen Tavian Mayo and Nicktroy Fortune (though one or both will likely redshirt in 2019), but as far as 2020 is concerned the real positives are the recent commitments of 4-star David Vincent-Okoli and 3-star Jairo Faverus, both of whom performed so well at our June 7th recruiting showcase that they received offers on the spot. I haven't had a ton of time to familiarize myself with them yet, but here are some early impressions:
- Both guys are about 6'0-6'1 and weigh in at a very compact and well-proportioned 185 lbs, which is slightly different from the lankier body type that Gibby seemed to prefer in his corners.
- Both guys have great balls skills.
- Both guys are willing to get physical, with Faverus in particular displaying an affinity for coming downhill in run support.
- Both guys are undoubtedly raw in their technique and are prone to the occasional mistake, but they're also both athletic enough that at the high-school level it doesn't really matter.
Looking ahead, DVO has the top-end speed (two-time DMV sprint champion with a 10.75 100m) and agility to project as a fantastic pure corner for us, but Faverus is a bit trickier. He certainly displays plenty of natural coverage skills on tape, but considering the physicality he plays with I can't help but feel that he would excel in the hybrid Cat safety role that Derrek Pitts just vacated. They both have some work to do before they’re ready to step into the ring with the best in the Big 12, but man it’s hard to not get excited about the potential.
A third area of need is along the defensive front. We've made some huge strides in this department over the last few years to get our top-end talent on par with the better teams in the conference, but given the license that BD Vic Koenning's defensive lineman have to attack, we still need to prioritize it to ensure that we're deep enough to avoid any snap-to-snap drop off in productivity. We were actually off to a really good start here following the commitments of borderline 4-star Aaron Lewis and 3-star Lanell Carr, but we hit a couple of snags recently when coveted in-state end Sean Martin committed to UNC and the aforementioned Lewis decided to flip to Michigan.
Regardless, Carr represents the beginning of a new era of West Virginia defensive lineman as the first guy we’ve recruited specifically to play the Bandit (DE/OLB hybrid), which is arguably the most important position in Koenning's defense. It goes without saying that playing there requires a ton of versatility, but a quick glimpse of Carr's highlight tape is enough to see that he has the physical tools to be successful. At a springy 6'3 230, he plays with outstanding outside leverage both when setting the edge against the run and rushing off of it against the pass, and even seems relatively comfortable dropping into coverage, where his experience as a tight end surely serves him well. He'll likely spend his first year learning from guys like Taihj Alston and VanDarius Cowan, but I'm excited to see what he looks like after spending some time in a college diet and exercise program.
We've also made solid progress on several currently uncommitted prospects. 3-star ends Akheem Mesidor and Taurus Simmons are both high on us based on 247's recruiting portal, while the 4-star tackle pair of Kevin Kalonji and Jeffrey M'ba were on campus recently and seemed to really enjoy themselves. Quan Mays also looks primed to keep our JUCO pipeline flowing. There are obviously a lot of ways that things could shake out, but keep an eye on these guys as we move through the summer.
Finally, we need somebody for our quarterback(s) to throw to. The four guys that just went to NFL will go down as one of the most productive pass catching groups we've ever had here, and once TJ Simmons joins them next year we'll be left with a handful of well-regarded guys who haven't really done much of anything. Sam James has been getting a ton of breakout hype this spring and I really like incoming freshmen Winston Wright and Ali Jennings, but we have a definite need for playmakers on the outside.
The first guy we'll talk about was also the first guy to join #TakeMeHome20 back in March - wide receiver Reese Smith. The 5'11 Smith, who went to Real Deal Neal's Boyle County high school in Danville, Kentucky, is currently a 3-star prospect with an 0.842 composite rating on 247Sports. Please don't think I'm being reductive when I say that he very much looks the part of the stereotypical slot receiver because I actually have a huge appreciation for that skill set. The preternatural ability to use a defender's momentum against them, knowing how to accelerate/decelerate through a route to not only find but also create space - those are things that are really hard to teach and they're things Reese Smith understands innately. He may not have the top-end speed to be a true gamebreaker at the next level, but the traits above should certainly translate and leave him well-suited to develop into a really nice chain-mover for us.
The other commit that we need to talk about is 6’4 215 lb Devell Washington, who is every bit the downfield physical presence you'd expect him to be at that size. We should be well-versed in the value of such a player at this point, having just watched David Sills son the Big 12 for two years while opponents such as Texas' LJ Humphrey and Iowa State's Hakeem Butler repeatedly did the same to us. Washington gives us a guy who should eventually be able to provide that, while also flashing some impressive ability with the ball in his hands on jet sweeps and screens. On paper at least, he and Smith should compliment each other pretty well.
Outside of those two, 247 also has us in the running for 3-star Kobe Stewart, but the real prize would be 4-star Bryce Gowdy, who has been absolutely shredding the summer camp circuit. Picking up a commitment from either of those guys would be great, but if we're able to add Gowdy especially it would be the cherry on top of a very nice receiver class.
So there you have it. We obviously have other needs, and there's a long way to go yet, but I'm definitely encouraged by the progress so far. If we can keep the momentum going and secure commitments from some of the other guys mentioned above we have the makings of a very nice class.