As stated in the West Virginia ESPN 300 Struggles vs. JC 50 Success, West Virginia for a multitude of reasons has struggled to keep the ESPN 300 recruits they sign on campus. Of the twelve that WVU has signed since 2012 only two have contributed as starters. Dravon Askew-Henry and Shelton Gibson are the two lone success stories. The two exceptions are Brandon Ferns who has been injured twice but still has eligibility and Jovon Durante who played but was then forced to transfer due to tough family situations. The other eight highly prized recruits never played significant downs on Mountaineer Field.
While it would be easy to criticize Head Coach Dana Holgorsen for the high failure rate of these signees, there is another part of this story where he deserves high praise. The Mountaineers have found a good track record in being able to attract ESPN 300 who are looking to transfer from their original school. These transfers have been critical contributors to the success of the West Virginia program.
Rushel Shell originally committed and played one year at Pitt. He was ranked as the third highest running back in 2011 and set a national high school record by rushing for a 100 yards in 39 consecutive games. After that year though Rushel Shell decided to transfer. He was a strong contributor to the Mountaineer running attack for three years as he rushed for 2010 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Kyle Bosch was the seventh ranked guard in 2013. He played in five games and started three as a true freshman at Michigan before being injured and forced to set out a year. Coach Holgorsen was able to convince Bosch to transfer to Morgantown where he has been a starter since day one. West Virginia has never signed an offensive lineman who was a member of the ESPN 300. The addition of Bosch to the team has been a key to WVU’s success the last few years and gave the Mountaineers the elite offensive line signee that they’ve never had.
Will Grier was ranked third among dual threat quarterbacks by ESPN in 2014. Number one in that class was none other than Deshaun Watson. West Virginia has only signed two similarly ranked quarterbacks, Geno Smith and Ford Childress were both ranked as the eighth best quarterbacks in their recruiting classes. Geno Smith is West Virginia’s career leader in passing yards while Childress left Morgantown without every playing a meaningful down. Woodrow Lowe III, a member of WVU’s 2018 signing class is ranked 13th by ESPN. Grier originally signed with Florida and started five games for the Gators before having to serve an NCAA suspension for a banned substance.
The Florida staff and program had moved past Grier by the time the suspension was over. Coach Holgorsen once again was able to lure a highly talented player to WVU. The Mountaineers weren’t even on Grier’s radar coming out of high school but luckily for West Virginia he was able to transfer and play in 2017. It is easy to imagine what the Mountaineers season would have looked absent of Grier after watching the Texas and Oklahoma games that he missed due to injury. It is easy to say that without him the 2017 season would have been very different.
Everyone in Morgantown is anxiously waiting to hear whether Grier will stay for his senior season. There is no doubt that he will get a shot at the NFL, it is merely a matter of whether he enters the draft this year of next. If Grier does decide to enter the draft in the mix to replace him will be another ESPN 300 transfer. Jack Allison, the sixth ranked quarterback in 2016 came to Morgantown in the offseason from Miami. He was forced to sit out the 2017 season due to transfer rules. Whether he is the replacement for Grier in 2018 or 2019 no one yet knows. Mountaineer fans are just hoping he can follow in the footsteps of the other successful ESPN 300 transfers.