The One That Got Away

Darnell Wright, a former five star recruit from Huntington High School, was a Top 10 prospect nationally and was the most highly-coveted in-state football player in years.  He had offers from every major football program in the country, but it came down to Tennessee, where he eventually chose, and West Virginia, his home state.

West Virginia’s offensive line is perhaps the worst it’s ever been in program history and signing Wright would have been huge for the Mountaineers.  Darnell Wright is a once-in-a-lifetime prospect in our state and West Virginia just barely missed out of him.

Not only would Wright have filled a role on the desperately porous offensive line, he would have been an absolutely perfect start to Neal Brown’s plan to keep elite in-state talent at home.  The loss of Wright to Tennessee will be felt for years and Neal Brown knew that.  Although Darnell Wright is only one player, he is a really, really important player for several reasons.

Former Head Coach Dana Holgorsen unfortunately did not value recruiting in-state talent and largely ignored Wright.  To be clear, Darnell Wright is the most talented high school player in the state of West Virginia in the last decade and Dana Holgorsen didn’t recruit him.  According to Wright, he didn’t even try.  In response to Holgorsen saying, “We weren’t going to get high school kids at West Virginia that we were going to win the Big 12 with”, Wright replied on Twitter with, “You gotta try first.”


When Neal Brown took over as the Head Coach, he immediately made Wright a priority.  Brown and his whole coaching staff attended Neal Brown attempted to undo Holgorsen’s lack of recruitment by sending his entire staff to Huntington to meet with Wright and try to convince him to come to West Virginia University during his first few weeks on the job.  Unfortunately, the damage was done and Wright ultimately decided to attend the University of Tennessee, the school that recruited him hard for years.

Wright was a 2019 ESPN Preseason Freshman All-American and has played well for Tennessee, starting 6 games at right tackle for the Volunteers as a Freshman.  He will have an outstanding collegiate career and will likely one day play professionally in the National Football League.

I wish him the best in Knoxville, but he would have been a massive difference-maker for the West Virginia football program and for his entire home state.  Darnell Wright is truly the one that got away for the Mountaineers.

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Brad Smith
Brad Smith, "The Voice of Morgantown", is the most trusted, accomplished name in West Virginia sports journalism. Smith is the foremost, preeminent authority on West Virginia athletics and a lifelong fan of the Mountaineers. Smith, a proud graduate of West Virginia University, resides in Morgantown most of the year, but has a home in Jacksonville, Florida, where he lives during the winter.