With the general uncertainty surrounding college sports this fall, the NCAA made a student-athlete friendly decision by approving a blanket eligibility waiver for all fall sports.
This blanket waiver means every student-athlete, whether or not they play or whether or not their team plays, will retain a year of eligibility following this season. That includes everyone from true freshmen to would-be graduating seniors.
Aside from the obvious benefits of not penalizing student-athletes for any COVID-related cancelations that may occur, there is also an added benefit of allowing true freshmen basically free reign to play this season. Normally, most teams will redshirt most, if not all, of their true freshman, limited them to appear in a maximum of four games. This year, however, true freshmen could appear in every game a team plays and still retain that year of eligibility.
This extra benefit is one that West Virginia head coach Neal Brown is planning to take advantage of, especially in the team’s season opener against Eastern Kentucky Saturday.
“We’re going to play a lot of people,” Brown said Tuesday. “A lot of those freshmen are going to play…We’re going to play anybody that’s proven to this point that they’re ready to play in a game.”
As vague as Brown’s “ready to play in a game” qualification is, there are a few true freshmen that are almost certain to see playing time against EKU, based on what has already been said about them.
Sam Brown – Wide Receiver
Coming out of New Hampstead High School in Bloomingdale, Georgia, Brown was a bit of a surprise signing for the Mountaineers this past Dec.
A three-star prospect, Brown was originally verbally committed to UCF but signed with WVU during the early signing period.
Now on campus with the team, Brown is wowing new WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker.
“He’s as exciting a freshman as I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” Parker said. “Coach (Travis) Trickett and those guys who went down and recruited him last year did a great job. Sam’s got a lot of promise.”
Parker said Brown fits right in with the great receivers WVU has had in recent years.
Like any freshman, he’s maturing, learning how to do things the right way on and off the field,” Parker said. “He really meets the standards of what West Virginia wide receiver play has been, and he’ll continue that as long as we continue to guide him along. He’s got a lot of promise and a bright future if he continues to grow.”
Akheem Mesidor – Defensive Line
Like Brown, Mesidor was another unexpected signing last Dec. A native Canadian, Mesidor played high school football in Clearwater, Florida, where he was a three-star prospect.
In terms of true freshmen on defense, Mesidor was more or less the talk of training camp for the Mountaineers.
“He’s a lot of fun to coach,” WVU defensive line coach Jordan Lesley said. “He’ll be exciting to watch over the next few years, hopefully, this year.”
Lesley said Mesidor has really stood out in practice for a player his age.
“There’s a lot he’s got to learn, there’s a lot he’s got to improve on from fall camp into the first couple of games,” Lesley said. “But he’ll be a guy that has got an extremely bright future and he doesn’t mind working.”
Maybe an even better endorsement of Mesidor is what the players who try blocking him in practice have to say.
He’s one of my least favorite people to block on the defense, next to Darius and Dante (Stills),” starting left guard James Gmiter said. “He’s definitely going to be in the mix this year. He’s quick, he has really good hands and then he’s deceivingly strong. He doesn’t look like he’d be a strong guy, but he is.”
Gmiter said Mesidor reminds him of a young Dante Stills.
“Mesidor is probably the best young guys I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Gmiter said. “He reminds me a lot of Dante Stills when he first got here. He definitely has some potential here.”
Daryl Porter Jr. – Cornerback
If having one impressive true freshman on defense wasn’t enough, the Mountaineer coaching staff has also been raving about American Heritage product Daryl Porter Jr.
Neal Brown mentioned Porter several days after practice during training camp and has him penciled in the top backup to starting corner Nicktroy Fortune.
For WVU defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae, it is Porter’s playmaking ability that has stood out the most.
“Daryl’s done what every DB should do and that’s go get the football,” Addae said. “He’s been able to get his hands on a few balls but I think…really the most impressive thing about Daryl is his ability to respond. There was a time or two, as a young corner, where you’re going to give one up. Every time that’s ever happened to him he’s always shown back up on the next play.”
The Mountaineers open the 2020 season at home Saturday against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Kickoff is at noon and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.