We are closing in on the first week of the new NCAA Transfer Portal Window, which opened on December 5 and will remain open for 45 days. To quickly review, the NCAA Transfer Portal is nothing more than a database of every player who has decided to leave their school and look for a new home. Thanks to revised NCAA guidelines, a player has a one-time opportunity to transfer schools without sitting out a year or losing a year of eligibility, which was the previous rule - its why Will Grier transferred in 2015 but was required to sit out 2016.
Previously under the original Portal rules, a player could enter their name at any time. The player must simply inform the school that they are choosing to transfer and the school has 48 hours to grant the player that request. This would often happen after the fourth game of the year, as players would play their first four games, choose to redshirt and then transfer for whatever reason they chose. The new rules have provided two windows for players to transfer, one opening on the first Monday after Championship weekend and lasting 45 days and another from May 1 - 15. That’s 60 days that a player can enter their name into the Portal. They are free to transfer at anytime after they enter their name into the Portal.
In the previous cycles, the West Virginia Mountaineers has lost core players and has struggled to fill those voids. Notably last year, the Mountaineers lost Ahkeem Mesidor and Josh Chandler-Semedo and worked to replace those players, along with several cornerbacks in Jackie Mathews, Tykee Smith and others. Those losses along the defensive side of the ball contributed to a defense this year finishing 114th in scoring defense, 66th in rush defense, 109th in pass defense and 96th in total defense.
This year, the Mountaineers were able to [so far] retain many of their core players, while having frank conversations with other players about where they stood on the depth chart. The coaches did not expect to retain everyone but wanted to ensure players like CJ Donaldson and Nicco Marchiol remained with the team. They succeeded so far in doing so.
The biggest loss for the Mountaineers is at the quarterback spot where former starting quarterback JT Daniels has chosen to once again transfer and backup quarterback Will “Goose” Crowder found himself too far down on the depth chart. That leaves the Mountaineers with two scholarship quarterbacks who have seen limited playing time along with incoming freshman Sean Boyle and preferred walk-on Sam Stoner.
As of right now, West Virginia has 62 players on scholarship, with another 20 expected to join the team once signing day occurs. As more players enter the portal, players will begin to announce where they are heading to and the team will then find replacement, but the overall scholarship numbers appear to be healthy entering 2023.
This is where the hard work needs to start paying off for West Virginia. Gone are the excuses - first year coach, roster turnover, COVID, low scholarship numbers. The team is entering year five under Neal Brown and as of now, every player on the roster was recruited by Brown. This is fully his team.
West Virginia is going to enter 2023 losing 79% of its passing yards with the abscences of Daniels, Crowder and wide receiver Sam James. They will also lose 63% of their receiving yards. They do return 102% of their rushing yards because Daniels is leaving and taking his negative 51 yards with him.
Defensively, the Mountaineers need to figure it out. After having one of the better defenses for two years in the Big 12, West Virginia struggled mightily on the back end, often allowing long touchdown passes as the secondary seemed confused and out of place. The team only intercepted four passes this year and two of them will be leaving with Malachi Ruffin.
Time will tell if the 2023 Mountaineers will be better than the 2019-2022 version of the team, but they at least enter the season with a set of core players they believe they can build around, as long as the NCAA Portal doesn’t steal anyone. Its a good place to be one week into the new portal drama.