Cover photo courtesy of West Virginia Athletics
Morgantown, West Virginia – The likelihood of Neal Brown lasting as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers decreases with every loss and it’s unlikely that the situation will get much better with a very challenging Big 12 Conference schedule looming.
With that, a coaching change is certainly a very real possibility either during the season or immediately following this season, despite the huge contract buyout that West Virginia will have to pay Brown.
A coaching change presents numerous issues and concerns, but perhaps the most obvious problem facing the Mountaineers is the lose of talented young players on the current roster and recruits who have committed to play for the team.
West Virginia’s 2023 recruiting class is currently ranked #33 in the nation and several key prospects – four star wide receiver Rodney Gallagher from Uniontown, Pennsylvania and talented linebacker Josiah Trotter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, most notably – figure to be a major part of the Mountaineers’ future.
Gallagher is a spectacular, dynamic recruit who is undoubtedly a future star at West Virginia. His home is 30 minutes from the WVU campus and it seems extremely unlikely that he would choose to de-commit if/when Brown is dismissed as the head coach. In fact, although the Mountaineers could potentially lose any of the other committed recruits whether Brown returns or not, it’s highly unlikely that the coaching change would greatly impact the decision of many of the recruits. In addition, although recruiting started off hot at the beginning of this cycle, it has really leveled off and a new coach could reignite interest from various other uncommitted recruits.
The current roster could be an entirely story, however. Most of the players on the team now are Neal Brown recruits and it’s only natural that many of them would leave after he was fired. It’s important to remember that West Virginia has lost many key players to the transfer portal during Neal Brown’s tenure and so again, it’s unlikely that they would lose many more players if he was fired than if he somehow remains the head coach.
Having said that, here are the players that with the highest probability of leaving West Virginia if/when Brown is fired:
Reese Smith, Sophomore, Wide Receiver – Smith grew up in Danville, Kentucky, the very same place Neal Brown was raised. He played wide receiver for Boyle County High School, just as Neal Brown did when he was younger. In other words, he’s the ultimate Neal Brown guy. Smith has struggled with punt-returning duties (two costly fumbles early in the season) and has only been a minor contributor on offense with 10 catches and 94 yards this year. It’s doubtful that without any connections to a potential future head coach that he would get much of an opportunity to play in the future.
Garrett Greene, Sophomore, Quarterback and/or Will Crowder, Redshirt Freshman, Quarterback – It’s really shocking that neither Greene or Crowder have decided to transfer already, but a coaching change would probably mean the last we’ve seen of both talented young quarterbacks in Morgantown. Greene is exceptionally-talented, but has never been given a real chance to shine as a true quarterback, and the same could be said for Crowder.
A new coach would almost certainly want to bring in their own new quarterback and this would put Greene and Crowder back at the bottom of the depth chart, even if JT Daniels doesn’t return next year.
When Nicco Marchiol chose West Virginia, he said that he picked the Mountaineers for the school, not the coach, and he’s talented enough that he would have a real shot still to be the future starter under a new head coach.
Tony Mathis, Jr., Redshirt Sophomore, Running Back – Whether Neal Brown returns or not, Mathis is a player to watch as far as entering the transfer portal. Freshman sensation CJ Donaldson is clearly the future at this position and West Virginia has a slew of outstanding young running backs waiting to contribute.
Others: There will absolutely be other players that will leave the team, whether Brown and his staff return or not. Remember, there were many players who shockingly left the program prior to this season, such as Akheem Mesidor, Josh Chandler, Nicktroy Fortune, Daryl Porter, Jackie Matthews and Winston Wright, among others, and there will be more this season either way.