5 for the 10s: Top 5 WVU Players of the Decade

5 for the 10s is a four-part series reflecting on the most memorable West Virginia athletics players, games, news and events of the concluding decade of the 2010s.

First of four parts: In this installment, we rank the Top 5 WVU athletes of the decade.

5. Da’Sean Butler (Basketball,, 2006-10)

Butler played just one season in the decade, which is why he isn’t higher on this list. But what a season it was.

As a senior, the Newark, N.J., native led the Mountaineers in one of the greatest seasons in WVU basketball history. Arguably the Mountaineers best clutch shooter not named Jerry West, “Big Shot Da’Sean” time and again in 2009-10 hit game-winning shots.

In his magical senior season, Butler hit the game winner in victories against Cleveland State, Marquette, Louisville, Villanova and in WVU’s Big East Tournament championship run in games against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals and Georgetown in the finals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHBeilhy1BI. Butler led the Mountaineers to their only Big East Tournament title.
Butler followed that up by leading the Mountaineers to just the second Final Four appearance in school history.

Butler’s career ended crumbled on the court in Indianapolis with a torn ACL that he suffered in West Virginia’s national semifinal loss to Duke.

Even in pain and defeat, Butler left Mountaineers Nation and the basketball world with an iconic image of what he meant to them and to his coach, Bob Huggins.

Butler was selected in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat.

4. Will Grier (Football, 2017-18)

When Grier announced his intention to transfer to West Virginia after an impressive yet turbulent freshman campaign at Florida, it gave the Mountaineers and coach Dana Holgorsen the kind of blue-chip quarterback talent they couldn’t land out of high school.

After sitting out the mandatory redshirt year in 2016, Grier made an immediate impact. Grier threw for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior and delighted the state of West Virginia when he announced he would return for his senior season in 2018.

Grier was even better as a senior, throwing for 3,864 yards and 37 touchdowns. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the best finish for a WVU player since Major Harris was third in 1989.

Some WVU fans have a bitter taste over how Grier’s college career ended. The Mountaineers failed to meet the lofty expectations they had as a team in 2018, finishing 8-4 (6-3 in the Big 12) in the regular season with a berth in the Camping World Bowl. The team’s 2018 record, combined with Grier’s decision to skip the bowl game to concentrate on the NFL Draft, perturbed many.
But that doesn’t change the fact Grier is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in school history.

Grier was taken in the third round by the Carolina Panthers in the 2019 NFL Draft.

3. Tavon Austin (Football, 2009-12)

Austin came to WVU as a high school recruit from Maryland. After a quiet freshman season and a decent sophomore season, the speedy receiver/running back exploded on the college football scene as a junior in 2011.

In the first season of Holgersen’s Air Raid offense in Morgantown, Austin flourished. He had 101 catches for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. In the Mountaineers 70-33 rout of Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl, Austin was a monster on the jet sweep shovel pass that flummoxed the Tigers all night. Austin finished the game with 12 catches for 123 yards and four touchdowns.

Austin was even more dominant as a senior, tallying 114 catches, 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns receiving in 2012. Austin also saw a lot more time in the backfield as a senior, rushing 72 times for 643 yards and three scores.

The highlight of Austin’s WVU career came, unfortunately, when he was absolutely brilliant in a loss. Austin ran for a school-record 334 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 82 yards in the Mountaineers 50-49 loss to Oklahoma in 2012.

Austin was the eighth-overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2013 NFL Draft.

2. Geno Smith (Football, 2009-12)
Smith is the most prolific passer in WVU history. The Miami native holds the record for most career passing yards (11,662), single season passing yards (4,385), career passing touchdowns (98) single season passing touchdowns (42), single game passing yards (656) and single game passing touchdowns (8).

Smith was good as a sophomore in 2010 in Bill Stewart’s last season as coach, throwing for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns. But he exploded in Holgorsen’s spread attack.

Smith threw for more than 4,000 yards in both seasons in Holgersen’s offense. Smith’s career was highlighted by his 656 yards and eight touchdowns performance in WVU’s first-ever Big 12 game, a ridiculous 70-63 home victory over Baylor.

Like Grier, Smith’s senior season was statistically successful but not so from a win-loss perspective.

After a junior season that saw WVU win the Big East and rout Clemson in the Orange Bowl, big things were expected of Smith and the Mountaineers as they were set to begin their inaugural season in the Big 12 in 2012.

Things started well enough for Smith and the Mountaineers as they opened the season 5-0 and were ranked No. 5 in the nation. Then the wheels fell off. WVU lost six of its last eight games, including a lackluster effort in a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

But the senior season swoon doesn’t change the fact that West Virginia has never seen a quarterback approach the statistical milestones Smith accomplished.

Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the NY Jets.

1. Jevon Carter (Basketball, 2014-2018)

No player epitomized his team, coach, school and state more than Carter. It took little time for the Mountain State to adopt the Illinois native as its own.

Carter was a lightly recruited guard out of Maywood, Ill., in 2014 despite playing for high school basketball powerhouse Proviso East. Huggins was the only Power 5 coach to give Carter an offer.

WVU fans will be eternally grateful he did.

As a freshman, Carter arrived to a West Virginia program that had fallen off. After reaching the NCAA Tournament in five straight seasons to start Huggins WVU tenure, the Mountaineers missed the Big Dance back to back years prior to Carter’s arrival.

That changed beginning with Carter’s freshman season.

Led by Carter’s defensive intensity, Huggins instituted “Press Virginia,” a full-court, 40 minute trapping press that forced turnovers and made teams extremely uncomfortable.

West Virginia won 25 or more games in each of Carter’s four seasons, made the NCAA Tournament each year and advanced to the Sweet 16 three times
Carter was the unquestioned leader of the team, on and off the court. Carter was twice named national Defensive Player of the Year. As a senior, he averaged 17.3 points and three steals a game.

If WVU makes the NCAA Tournament this season, it will be the first time in eight years that a Mountaineers team has qualified without Carter.
Carter was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Honorable mention: Stedman Bailey (Football, 2010-12); Daxter Miles (Basketball, 2014-18); Kevin Jones (Basketball, 2008-12); Kevin White (Football, 2013-14); Bruce Irvin (Football, 2010-11)