The work is far from done, but the main mission for WVU this offseason has already been accomplished. The Mountaineers won in 2023 largely thanks to the emergence of new stars, and those stars are staying put for at least one more season.
Winning a bowl game would be nice. Securing another solid high school recruiting class is important. Adding transfers who can instantly make the team better is essential. But with all of that said, the number one priority above everything else was to keep four key players in the fold. And they did.
In a past era, a successful season would be followed by simply looking to build. It would only be about how to make the roster better and how to keep winning more games. But in this day and age, every program, and I mean every program, knows going into every offseason they will lose someone they hoped to retain and their plan will be somewhat disrupted.
Not every player that ends up in the portal actually wants to transfer. Some are even told it’s best for everyone involved that they move on. However, every program will likely endure losing a player (or two, or three, or 10) they did not want to see leave town. Even though that’s now reality of college sports, the Mountaineers absolutely could not let Garrett Greene, Jahiem White, Rodney Gallagher or Traylon Ray get away. And each one of them have now committed to return.
Obviously, there are other players who would leave a significant hole on the team if they transferred. WVU has lost some players, granted most were either expected or are depth guys looking for playing time elsewhere. There are a couple who are a hit.
But if WVU let any of the four previously mentioned get away, any hope of a climb, any goodwill, any of the positive vibes that were gained by going 8-4 (6-3) after being predicted to have one of the worst seasons in program history, would’ve been lost. Everyone knows this too.
Greene is Heart and Soul of Team
The instant Greene, who became a fun player to watch and the true leader of the team throughout the season, posted an essay that ended with “respect my decision,” every WVU corner of social media would’ve been lit on fire with outrage and disappointment.
Greene had his rough patches, but overall provided the offense with that dual-threat quarterback fans always desire. Head coach Neal Brown has said it’s Greene who gives West Virginia a chance every week. Mountaineer Nation would not have been able to handle seeing him finish his college career elsewhere.
Sure, WVU could’ve turned to a transfer quarterback like the program has done in the past, but West Virginia fans know all too well how that’s never a sure thing. Assuming Nicco Marchiol sticks around, the job may have been his without Greene. But even though Marchiol did lead the team to a couple wins, he never showed signs of the explosiveness Greene can provide.
White Has ‘Next Great WVU Star’ Written All Over Him
Arguably just as tough to hear, imagine watching Jahiem White follow his strong freshman season on another team. White literally led the nation in rushing yards for all freshmen with 792. His monster games towards the end of the season drew comparisons to Steve Slaton of all former players. A White departure may have honestly been even worse than Greene due to the belief the best of him is still to come.
Ray Will Bring More Highlights to WVU Offense
Traylon Ray became a favorite target of Greene’s in the final weeks. He made some highlight reel worthy catches that few other receivers could’ve made. When WVU has a player of his skillset, watching him take his talents to another destination would’ve been a hard pill to swallow.
Losing Gallagher Would’ve Destroyed Hope
And last but certainly not least, THE Rodney Gallagher. “The” is in front of his name because that was level of hype that surrounded his official signing on National Signing Day in Dec. of 2022. While Gallagher, one of the highest ranked recruits ever signed by WVU, has yet to put up big statistics like his fellow 2023 class partners White and Ray, he steadily progressed each week. Brown definitively said that he fully believes Gallagher will be a star once he build his body and keeps gaining experience as a receiver.
But no matter what the receptions and yards may say, losing Gallagher would’ve been a reason for naysayers to argue any of the hope being sold is simply fools’ gold. They would’ve no doubt said those who say WVU’s NIL collective is growing and is a reason why the Mountaineers can be compete for highly coveted players are living in denial. We all know what comments would’ve been spread everywhere. We all know what the narrative, regardless of the truth, would’ve been.
Now back to reality.
Greene is locked in and sounds excited about the immediate future for WVU. “Anybody can call me and I’m not leaving,” he proclaimed when asked if other coaches are trying to steal him. Ray has a new deal with County Roads Trust. White and Gallagher both publicly told fans to stop worrying.
The doomsday of losing the building block players does not have to be a reality and West Virginia can now truly begin worrying about everything else.
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