Its everyone’s favorite time of the year, the day the NCAA transfer portal opens and coaches and players can begin shopping for what they need to make their teams and/or selves better for the next season. The West Virginia Mountaineers, who have been decimated by the portal for the past several seasons, are finally coming off a 8-4 season and the departures are expected to be minimal and the additions are expected to be helpful.
The NCAA’s modifications to the scholarship rules that allowed coaches and teams to add players to build their rosters up led the Mountaineers to have a full 85-scholarship team for the first time in many years and as such, the Mountaineers are not in a position where they need to take many bodies just to fill a roster.
The Mountaineers are looking at several positions in the portal with some taking on greater priority than others, so let’s take a look and what positions are the most critical need for the Mountaineers and what you can expect the coaches to focus on this week.
It should come as no surprise that defensive back is the major priority for the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers are losing three defensive backs to graduation: Beanie Bishop, Malachi Ruffin and Montre Miller. Bishop was the clear top cornerback for the Mountaineers this year, finishing the year with four interceptions and leading all Power 5 defenders in pass breakups with 20.
Not to be forgotten is Malachi Ruffin, who broke up 5 passes and intercepted one this season. The pair formed an experienced tandem for the Mountaineers. Included in this is the loss of Lance Dixon (safety) and Marcis Floyd.
The loss of the two seniors, along with the struggles of the defensive backfield as a whole should be a top priority for the coaching staff. Despite the pair of seniors in the backfield, the Mountaineers finished 93rd in pass yards allowed per game and 119th in passing touchdowns with 25.
Unlike the cornerback room which is going to be thinned due to graduations, the wide receiver room is lacking overall depth and experience. The Mountaineers have a bevvy of speeders and playmakers in EJ Horton, Rodney Gallagher, Hudson Clement, PReston Fox and Traylon Ray but they are missing that overall number one receiver who can body a bigger corner or blow by a smaller corner. Since 2019 the Mountaineers have not had a receiver break 1,000 yards on the season and Bryce Ford-Wheaton’s 7 touchdown catches last season are the most by any receiver in a single season in that five year span.
Wide receiver Devin Carter is the big loss in the receiver room, and Carter led all Mountaineers with 501 yards receiving this season. He only caught 27 passes but averaged a healthy 18 yards per catch.
I also think the Mountaineers could use a second safety valve in the mold of Kole Taylor. Taylor’s 33 catches led the team this season and having another bid body who can run the middle of the field for Greene would give the Mountaineers a third or fourth option necessary to keep Greene in rhythm.
The other big area of need for the Mountaineers will be linebacker as Lee Kpogba graduates and Jared Bartlett walked on senior day. The Mountaineers showed good linebacker play early in the season before losing Trey Lathan to a season-ending leg injury. The Mountaineers depth at linebacker continued to be a problem as injuries caused several players to miss time and required younger players to play significant amount of minutes against conference opponents