Neal Brown was in a noticeably chipper mood on Wednesday after receiving National Letters of Intent from 18 of his future players in his first early signing period at West Virginia.
The first-year coach and his staff inked prospects from 10 different states and 2 foreign countries, fulfilling many of the program’s roster needs. 15 of the signees will enroll as freshmen, while 3 will come via junior colleges.
“We’ve got a lot of positive momentum heading into the holidays, heading into the offseason,” Brown said at his National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday.
This class is also shaping up to be one of the top-rated classes in program history, as described by 247Sports’s Chris Anderson:
The Mountaineers’ class ranks 36th nationally by 247Sports and 30th by Rivals as this is being written, both of which are subject to, and likely will change as the offseason goes on.
The recruiting began for the new coaching staff almost right when they arrived in Morgantown. Early in the season, Brown says his staff intentionally left their recruiting class emptier than normal heading into Big 12 play to better expose holes that needed filling.
As the regular season ended, Brown and his staff had clear focuses: their run game (offensive line and running backs), pass rushing (defensive line/linebackers) and their secondary. 13 of their signings fall into those categories, with the only position missing being a new running back.
“I don’t know if we have filled it all,” Brown explained. “In openness, I think it’s going to be an ongoing process. You know, you’re going to have natural needs every single year.”
This is also far from the end of the recruiting process for the Mountaineers, as they are expecting new signings to come in 2020.
Here’s a full position group breakdown of the newest Mountaineers:
West Virginia landed a single quarterback in Tallahassee, Florida native Garrett Greene.
Greene is an example of one of the recruiting keys preached by Brown’s recruiting staff: building relationships. Theirs predates Brown’s hiring at West Virginia — about two years to be exact — which allows the coach to speak on Greene fairly extensively.
“The thing that I really appreciate with him is [Lawton Chiles High, Greene’s high school team] has had injuries there, they’ve had, really, they’ve struggled up front at times there, and he’s been productive,” Brown said. “He’s never once complained, never once over the course…of our relationship he’s never said anything negative about any of his teammates, and he just went to work.”
West Virginia added a trio of wideouts, but Reese Smith is a name that jumps off the page — not necessarily because of his caliber, ranking or name recognition, but rather his connection to Brown.
“From my hometown [of Danville, Kentucky], he’s really the first player that I’ve actively recruited from home,” Brown explained. “That’s always been home for me, and so I’ve always been choosy about who we go back and get, so that tells you how much I think of him.”
Smith is joined by Devell Washington and Sam Brown, a pair of three-star receivers from Georgia and Michigan, respectively.
Coach Brown says Washington is a raw talent, but he is confident he will mature. Sam Brown, on the other hand, was a “big pick-up” for West Virginia, with his “best football ahead of him.”
Brown and his staff added one tight end in Charles Finley. A 6-4, 215-pound recruit from DePaul Catholic in New Jersey, the head coach says he will come to WVU as a “developmental guy” and even compared him to current Mountaineer tight end Mike O’Laughlin.
Four offensive linemen will be joining the Mountaineers, tying the secondary for WVU’s most-recruited position group in this class.
Headlining the group is Zach Frazier, a native of Fairmont and one of the top two recruits to come out of West Virginia this year.
“I think he is gonna be perhaps a dominant player at center for us,” Brown said. “He’s got great football instincts, he’s intelligent, loves West Virginia.”
Chris Mayo will also be joining the program from Deptford, NJ. Rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN (and a three-star by 247Sports and Rivals), Brown says it won’t take much for the 6-6, 310-pound offensive guard to get acclimated because of the high-caliber program he’s coming from, the Peddie School.
“He’s going to be college-ready when he gets here,” he said.
Rounding out the offensive line are three-star additions in Tairiq Stewart of ASA College (a prep school, meaning he will enter as a freshman) and Jordan White of DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
They’re not done with just four signees, though. Brown says they will keep adding to their offensive line, as well as a running back to bolster their run game.
West Virginia reeled in a trio of defensive linemen and two bandits, which the coaching staff hopes will help bolster their pass rush.
Wherever you look, Sean Martin of Bluefield tags along with the aforementioned Frazier as the other top recruit in West Virginia (depending on the rankings, they trade the no. 1 and 2 spots). The Mountaineers faced a stiff cliff when Martin first committed to North Carolina, before decommitting and picking WVU earlier this month.
“That was probably as important of a win as any we had,” Brown said. “Not only for Sean, but also for the future in-state.”
Akheem Mesidor is one of the two international recruits coming to West Virginia. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, he moved to Clearwater, Florida for what Brown called a “great senior year.”
Quay Mays is the only junior college product to join the Mountaineers on the defensive line by way of Northwest Mississippi Community College. He comes from a football pedigree as the nephew of WVU alumnus Alvoid Mays and the cousin of former first round NFL Draft pick Peter Warrick.
Behind them, the Mountaineers brought in a pair of bandits in Lanell Carr and Taurus Simmons, a pair of three star prospects.
David Vincent-Okoli is the marquee man in the secondary for the 2020 class as the highest-rated recruit for WVU this season. One of four defensive backs in this class, Okoli is a four-star prospect who left an impression on Brown at WVU’s camps.
Jairo Faverus is the second international recruit for the Mountaineers. A native of Amsterdam, he moved to the Bristol Academy of Sports in the United Kingdom where he became the top-rated prospect in the country.
“It’s an international game, which I think is incredible for the game in general,” Brown said.
He also added that Faverus was “physically impressive” at WVU’s camp.
They also added three stars Jackie Matthews and Daryl Porter Jr., a pair of versatile players. Brown says Matthews will play safety and Porter Jr. at cornerback.
Brown noted that obviously they didn’t get every recruit they wanted, but he is still quite happy with the class they have.
“I’m really pleased with the ’20 class,” Brown said. “I’m excited about what we can do as an organization, ’21 and beyond, playing on an even field with everybody else where we’ve got really two full years invested in these guys.”
He left the presser with one anecdote relating to high school coaches, and especially how they are slowly getting more separated from the recruiting process.
“High school coaches absolutely make a difference,” Brown said. “And I think about [my high school coach] Chuck Smith and what he did in that Danville community, how he changed the school system, how he changed the community, and there’s a ton of those types of stories out there. And I think it’s important to note on this day where we’re celebrating mostly high school student athletes, that the high school football coaches make a difference.”