The idea for this blog sprouted because of a piece in The Athletic.
The Michigan State football program snapped a historic run of having a player drafted to the NFL for 80 years, a streak that was the third-longest in college football history.
It was snapped, though, in the recent three-day, seven-round 2021 event. MSU joined Rutgers, Virginia, Kansas, Utah and Washington State as the Power 5 teams held without a draft pick this year. And afterward, a story in The Athletic called Michigan State’s plight “an indictment of Mark Dantonio’s final years as the Spartans coach.”
And, yes, it got me thinking about former WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, now at Houston.
I mean, look at WVU’s fortunes in the draft. Only linebacker Tony Fields was selected (fifth round, Cleveland Browns) this year. In 2020, Kenny Robinson and Colton McKivitz were taken in the fifth round. The caveat there, however, is Robinson had been expelled and played in the XFL before being selected by Carolina. So, count that as one or two, however you wish.
If you continue to break it down, WVU has had two or less players taken in five of the last eight NFL drafts.
Not exactly Alabama.
So, is it an indictment of Holgorsen’s finals years as the Mountaineer coach? Remember, he infamously said upon arriving in Houston that, “We weren’t going to get high school kids at West Virginia that we were going to win the Big 12 with.”
To which I’ve always challenged. I watched Don Nehlen and Rich Rodriguez recruit – and, yes, develop – to Morgantown. And, if I remember correctly, Holgorsen himself – with help from Bill Stewart recruits — had enough talent to lay 70 points on Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
So, to me the comment is a cop-out. But can you throw “an indictment” at Holgorsen for his final years at WVU before Neal Brown took over?
The short answer is no.
See, Holgorsen coached West Virginia from 2011 to 2018. And while there were two stinkers in the last two NFL drafts, five Mountaineers were taken in 2019: Will Grier (third, Carolina), Yodney Cajuste (third, New England), Trevon Wesco (fourth, New York Jets), Gary Jennings (fourth, Seattle) and David Long (sixth, Tennessee).
In 2018, there was but one WVU player taken (Kyzir White, fourth, Los Angeles Chargers) and in 2017 there were but two (Rasul Douglas, third, and Shelton Gibson – who jumped as a junior – in the fourth, both to Philadelphia).
Yet five players were taken in the 2016 draft, led by first-round pick Karl Joseph to the then-Oakland Raiders. The others: Daryl Worley (third, Carolina), Nick Kwiatkoski (fourth, Chicago), Wendell Smallwood (fifth, Philly) and K.J. Dillon (fifth, Houston).
In 2015? Kevin White was taken in the first round by the Chicago Bears. Mark Glowinski, now with Indianapolis, went to Seattle (fourth round), while Shaq Riddick (fifth) went to Arizona and Mario Alford (seventh) went to Cincinnati.
(A few accompanying notes: McKivitz is still with San Francisco; Grier is one of four QBs – which includes Sam Darnold — hanging with Carolina; Wesco remains with the Jets; Jennings is on Indy’s roster; Long has had a nice career with Tennessee; Kyzir White is a linebacker with the Chargers; Douglas, Joseph and Kwiatkoski are now with the Raiders; Cajuste is healthy and giving it a go with the Patriots; Kevin White is with San Francisco; Riddick and Alford have been in the Canadian Football League. Worley, Gibson and Smallwood are free agents.)
Keep in mind, this doesn’t include undrafted Mountaineers, who went on to have success, like Quinton Spain, etc. It’s about WVU and the draft.
And, in that vein, Holgorsen did OK.
From here on, it’s Neal Brown.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.