The biggest news of the offseason for WVU football came this week when All-American safety Tykee Smith announced he was entering his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
Smith would have been one of the Mountaineers’ top returners on defense and the announcement of his impending transfer came as a surprise to many WVU fans. It was not a surprise, however, for WVU coach Neal Brown.
“[It was a] mutual separation,” Brown said following practice Saturday afternoon. “It’s a lot like some relationships I’m sure everyone has been in where it just gets to a point where it’s best for both parties and that’s kind of where we were.”
Smith, a junior from Philadelphia, was fourth on the team with 61 total tackles in 2020. He also had two interceptions and four tackles for loss.
“Nothing negative to say about him, he had a really good two years here being productive on the field and we’ll wish him the best,” Brown said.
Brown said the team will have a few different options to replace Smith at spear, given the position’s hybrid nature.
“That spear position through the years has been two different body types,” Brown explained. “We can move a third corner in there and play or you can put your third or fourth safety in there and play.
“The spear is the edge of our defense to the field a lot and a lot of plays get funneled out to them if we’re playing a safety body. If we’re playing more of a corner body then we change our coverage and we make somebody else the edge to the field, whether it’s a mike linebacker or we can drop our safety in there.”
Brown mentioned that former Arizona transfer Scottie Young played spear in WVU’s bowl victory over Army at the end of the season and that 2020 starting safety Alonzo Addae could easily transition there as well.
Transfer numbers have been high across college football this offseason. A combination of the portal, an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA and an impending one-time transfer eligibility rule has created a roster crunch across the sport.
“This isn’t a deal where I’m going to gripe and complain about the [transfer] portal,” Brown said. “I think there’s arguments on both sides for and against. It’s college athletics, it’s made the jobs of coaches harder, but we’re well compensated and we’ll figure it out.”
Smith was the 18th WVU player to enter the portal since the start of the 2020 season. Brown said he was able to see most of them coming.
“Of the departures we’ve had, we’ve really only had one what I would call a surprise,” Brown said. “That was Dreshun [Miller] earlier in the spring. The rest of them you could kind of see coming.”
Miller, one of WVU’s starting cornerbacks last season, entered into the portal in February.
WVU has also added a number of players from the portal in Brown’s two seasons. Notably, WVU has added a pair of likely starters in offensive tackle Doug Nestor and linebacker Lance Dixon.
“To this point, we’ve gained more than we lost and we’ve got to continue to do a good job,” Brown said. “We’ve got at least one that’s committed to join us and we’ve got three other spots we hope to fill through the portal or with late high school or junior college [players].”
WVU’s spring football schedule continues this week with practices set for Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.