MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As he worked to keep Dana Holgorsen’s December recruiting class intact, Neal Brown recognized he was making a sacrifice.
“The biggest disadvantage of getting into a situation late is what most of our competitors are doing is they’re probably going to sign two-to-five [players], at the most. But they’re already 2020 and 2021 recruiting,” Brown said. “Our primary function was to make sure the December guys were in good shape and try to secure the signees that we did sign. So, as crazy as it sounds, we’re sitting here in February, and we’re probably a little bit behind on the (2020) class and even a little on the 2021 class.”
There is a plan to make up for that lost ground, of course.
Now that signing day is behind him, Brown will soon divide his coaching staff among geographic recruiting areas for which each assistant is responsible.
“Everybody is going to have geographic areas, and you’re going to go through your area and find the top prospects within that area,” Brown said. “You’ll be the main recruiter, and then, the position coach will be involved as the secondary recruiter. And as the head coach, you’re always involved. That’s the way we go about it, and I’ll have final say.”
In his month on the job, Brown has made his presence known at several West Virginia high schools.
“We were able to get into a ton of high schools in the state, develop relationships with those guys, and that’s something we’ll continue to do,” Brown said.
Brown also made quick forays into the Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. areas, and plans to work his way into Ohio next.
“We were in that footprint as much as we possibly could while trying to chase the signees and going to see the guys who signed in December as well,” Brown said.
After spending the past four years completely overshadowed by titans Alabama and Auburn while he coached at Troy, Brown is eager to reap the benefit of being at a state’s flagship school — particularly in a state that borders enough talent-rich areas to compensate for its own small population.
“I think being the in the state here and having a strong brand within this geographic footprint is critical,” Brown said. “We feel like we can compete and win against anybody. If we do our job, are diligent and build relationships, then we should have as good of a chance as anybody in West Virginia and all the states that surround it.”
The following players are among those already being pursued by the Mountaineers for next year’s class:
DE • 6-5, 223 • Bluefield, W.Va. • Rivals three-star
As an in-state defensive lineman, Martin checks off every point of emphasis for Brown’s next recruiting class… Other offers include Baylor, Marshall, Maryland, Duke and Illinois.
DT • 6-2, 277 • Fairmont, W.Va. • Rivals three-star
Frazier fills the same boxes as Martin, but as an interior lineman… His only other listed offer is Wake Forest, though Virginia is among the schools showing interest.
QB • 6-2, 200 • Lexington, Ky. • Rivals four-star
Can Brown wrangle Allen from underneath the nose of his alma mater and former employer? Getting a talented quarterback away from his hometown isn’t easy, but Brown is obviously well-connected in the Lexington area. And as it turns out, both of Allen’s grandmothers are West Virginia natives… Other offers include Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, Bowling Green, Cincinnati and Duke.
ATH • 5-11, 175 • Danville, Ky. • Rivals three-star
A wide receiver prospect from Brown’s high school alma mater, Smith was offered almost immediately upon Brown taking the West Virginia job. He’s the eighth-ranked prospect in Kentucky with plenty of time left to improve his stock… Other offers include Kentucky, Cincinnati, Duke and Austin Peay.
OG • 6-5, 300 • Hightstown, N.J. • Rivals four-star
Is rated by Rivals as the No. 10 guard in the country, and his recruitment reflects that status. Mayo has the potential to be the bedrock player in a signing class… Other offers include Pitt, Rutgers, Arizona State, Auburn, Maryland, Wake Forest and Kentucky. Penn State has yet to offer, but Mayo has already made a pair of unofficial visits to Happy Valley.