The new NCAA Transfer Portal windows are in full bloom and after a week, we have an idea of who has entered the portal for teams. Now the window shopping begins, as teams assess their needs, their graduations, and transfers out and look to see who they can replace or improve those players and positions with.
For the Mountaineers, we’ll take a look at the offensive side and defensive side. Today we start with the offense, assessing the needs of the team and who or what may be available. I am looking at this situation from two assessments: Neal Brown, in my opinion, needs to win eight games in 2023 and in order to do so, he needs to find immediate playmakers. Additionally, there are some positions that just need betterment of the position itself.
West Virginia enters the 2022 offseason with two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster - sophomore Garrett Greene and freshman Nicco Marchiol. Greene has two starts to his name and has threw 78 passes for 493 yards this past season. Known more as a runner, Greene saw action in 8 games, logging at least one carry in each game with a season-high 14 carries for 119 yards against the Oklahoma Sooners. On the other side of the coin is Nicco Marchiol, a talened freshman who saw action in two games - Towson and Oklahoma State.
The lack of experience and the need for immediate wins would not surprise me if a QB is brought in, the question is at what costs? Is a quarterback being recruited to be JT Daniels - “promised” (in quotations because coaches never actually promise but Daniels doesn’t come if he isn’t the starter) the job or are we simply looking for a talented backup who can help coach and guide the young guns?
Devin Leary, a talented former top player, who spent the past four seasons with the NC State Wolfpack, tore his pectoral muscle in October and has entered the portal. He’s the highest rated player in the portal according 247Sports so bringing him to Morgantown won’t be an easy task.
Leary is the only player who fits the one-year stopgap mold for quarterbacks. If Brown can’t secure Leary, he likely is going to take his chances with a quarterback battle between Greene and Marchiol, rather than bringing in another young quarterback to throw into the mix.
The Mountaineers running back room is very healthy, featuring four backs who all saw time and carries in 2022. tony Mathis, CJ Donaldson, Justin Johnson and Jaylen Anderson all broke the 200 yard barrier and each of them crossed the goalline in 2022. That bodes well for the overall productivity of the team but it also presents a quandry as running backs don’t often sign up for limited carries. They want to be the workhorse, getting 15-20 touches a game.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a back enter the portal later in the first window or even during the second window, but I don’t see the Mountaineers putting in much effort to sign a running back from the Transfer Portal.
Need number one on the offensive side of the team, the Mountaineers have lacked a true, bona fide number one receiving option on the team for four years now. Sam James led the team with 745 yards receiving and Bryce Ford-Wheaton led the team in receptions and touchdowns (62 & 7 respectively). Both have chosen to end their collegiate career and try their hand at the NFL.
Also gone is Reese Smith who added 19 catches, 205 yards and 1 touchdown. That leaves the Mountaineers with a receiving corp of Kaden Prather (52/501/3), Cortez Braham (14/147/0) and Jeremiah Aaron (12/124/1) as the X/Y/Z of the group. Prather might be a number one receiver, but a 9.6 yards per catch average and a career long of 32 yards doesn’t exactly check the box of explosive receiver.
Someone like Oregon’s Dont’e Thorton would be a fantastic get as someone who owns the long frame needed for a number one receiver. Thorton may also want to come home, being that he is from the Baltimore area. In 2022, Thorton had long plays of 58, 46, 25, and 42 yards. Against #10 Utah, he turned in a 4-catch, 151 yard performance as the Ducks upset Utah 20-17.
Another name to keep an eye on is Dante Cephas out of Kent State. Cephas put up an 82 catch, 1240 yard, 9 touchdown season in 2021 before regressing to 48 / 744 / 3 this season. In both seasons he averaged over 15 yards per catch. He’s from Pittsburgh, so coming down to Morgantown would be a homecoming of sorts for him.
The Mountaineers offensive line currently has 14 players on scholarship and no one was a senior this year. James Gmiter has chosen to retire and Jordan White has entered his name into the transfer portal, bringing that number down to 12, but the Mountaineers have LOT, LG, C, RG all figured out and really only need to solidify the right tackle position. It does seem like the coaching staff is hoping to have Ja’Quay Hubbard or Brandon Yates win the job but if a starter like Doug Nester is available, you wouldn’t say no, would you?
Keep an eye on Morgantown native, Marcellus Marshall out of Kent State, who was part of the 2020 class but has the size (6’-5”, 310 pounds) to play outside.