When I peruse the old World Wide Web, I don’t see much love for WVU’s football team regarding the 2022 season. A five-win season projected here. A six-win season projected there. Athlon has the Mountaineers ranked No. 51.
On and on it goes – despite excitement around the additions of offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and QB JT Daniels.
Yet something caught my attention on Monday.
It was something WVU coach Neal Brown said while addressing the media.
It was something he said about his team’s most glaring concern: the secondary.
And it was something he said regarding the transfers brought in to help that secondary.
“You look at the number of snaps we brought in, right? I think if you look at all the preseason people having questions about us, they’re not necessarily taking into account we added over 1,000 reps of live snaps from James Madison – last time I checked they play pretty good football, right? – and North Dakota State – they play pretty good football – and then Rashad [Ajayi] at Colorado State. So, we’ve added over 1,000 live reps in the secondary. So, while they may not have played for us, they’ve played football at a really high level.”
Indeed, James Madison went 12-2 last season, advancing all the way to the FCS semifinals before falling by six points to… eventual national champ North Dakota State, which finished 14-1. Colorado State, meanwhile, was 3-9, if you noticed Brown’s tiny slight, but within the Mountain West Conference.
Yet let’s look at the big secondary picture for a moment. Gone to graduation are players like Sean Mahone and Alonzo Addae. Gone via the transfer portal are players like Nicktroy Fortune, Darryl Porter and Jackie Matthews.
That leaves cornerback Charles Woods and safety Saint McLeod with starting experience. And Brown said on Monday, “Saint isn’t with us. I don’t foresee him being with us during fall camp” because of injuries from a March stabbing incident.
So, all eyes will be on WVU’s secondary transfer group. And, unlike the “preseason people” let us take a closer look.
“They have to help – that’s why we got them,” Brown said. “Talking about Wesley McCormick and Rashad. I think they have to help.
“That was something we needed: experience. It was clear coming out of spring, that we needed some experience. We like our guys. We like [redshirt freshman cornerback] Andrew Wilson-Lamp. I thought he really showed some signs. But we needed experience in that room to match Charles.”
McCormick, a 5-11, 200-pound cornerback, will certainly bring experience as a redshirt senior from JMU, where he played in all 15 games as a freshman, 12 games as a sophomore, 14 games with 11 starts as a junior and had seven starts at corner during the Covid 2020 season. As a senior, he only played in one game before redshirting to retain his final year of eligibility.
“McCormick made a couple great plays [on Monday] on the ball,” Brown said. “He and [junior wide receiver] Cortez Braham really went at each other. I like the way both those guys play. They both came in May, about the same time.”
Ajayi, a 5-11, 182-pound senior cornerback, started every game for Colorado State as a freshman, junior and the Covid season and seven of nine games as a sophomore.
“Rashad and Wes are going to compete to play,” Brown said. “We brought them in for two reasons. We thought they could compete for starting spots at the cornerback position and also to help us on multiple special teams.”
The transfer from North Dakota State is Jasir Cox, a 6-1, 204-pound senior spear.
“Jasir is playing our nickel, spear position,” Brown said. “He also gives us some flexibility when we go to our six-DB package. He made one really nice play [Monday]. He’s got the ability to get off blocks. Really smart football player too.”
Cox actually started 14 games at linebacker for the Bison, finishing as North Dakota State’s third-leading tackler. He started all 10 games during the Covid season, helping the Bison to the FCS quarterfinals.
“Those three guys, they have to be ready to play for us,” Brown said. “And I think they will.”
WVU also took in 6-foot, 194-pound redshirt junior cornerback Marcis Floyd from Murray State. He started 11 games in 2021 and was All-OVC first-team in 2020.
And, yes, with 81 players on scholarship, Brown said he’s still looking for more help from the portal.
“We’re not closed,” he said.
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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.