The recent departure of an All-American safety hasn’t shaken Neal Brown’s confidence in his secondary this spring.
West Virginia has had over a dozen players announce their intents to transfer away from the program, with sophomore Tykee Smith the most recent to put his name in the portal. Most of these departures, Brown says, are predictable — the sole exception being cornerback Dreshun Miller.
Smith’s leaving follows the same trend, as the head coach the move a “mutual decision.”
“It’s a lot like some relationships that I’m sure everyone on here has been in, it just gets to a point where it’s best for both parties, and that’s kind of where we were,” Brown said.
Brown didn’t cite any bad blood between Smith and the program, and wished him the best moving forward. The new vacancy does, however, present some questions about West Virginia’s secondary as two of its starters will not be returning for 2021.
On the positive side for West Virginia, there are plenty of returners that Brown and his staff can plug in to fill Smith’s shoes at the spear position, a safety/linebacker hybrid employed by the Mountaineers.
“Through the years, it’s been two different body types,” Brown said. “We can move a third corner in there and play, or you can put your third or fourth safety in there and play.”
Brown specifically cited Alonzo Addae, Jackie Matthews and Scottie Young, who started at spear for WVU in the Liberty Bowl.
“The hope is that all these returners…they’ll learn how to play the entire shell, and so we’re going to continue to build as we go through,” he added.
Brown also noted that the Mountaineers have — and will continue to have — newcomers to help fill spots in the depth chart. They are looking to use the transfer portal to their advantage, while also searching for some late commitments from some high school or junior college prospects to hopefully bring in defensive backs and another linebacker.
“To this point, we’ve gained more than we’ve lost, we’ve got to continue to do a good job,” Brown said. “We’ve got at least one that’s committed, that will join us. We’ve got three other spots that we hope to fill…so our class is still going to be worked on.”