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What Can WVU Expect from Pair of Northwestern Transfer Defensive Backs?



WVU Football DC Jordan Lesley

By now, it’s public knowledge WVU landed a pair of transfer defensive backs out of Northwestern. Their decisions to become Mountaineers even make sense based on the opportunities they will likely receive in West Virginia and the recent success of Beanie Bishop, who also left the Big Ten for the Big 12 to finish out his college career. But what exactly can they offer the WVU secondary?

What does the West Virginia coaching staff see in Garnett Hollis Jr. and Jaheem Joseph? In order to get a better idea of what type of players these two are and what type of impact they can have, WV Sports Now reached out to someone who covered them at Northwestern.

Bradley Locker, co-editor of SB Nation’s Northwestern site, broke it all down for WVSN. For starters, Locker provided some background on Joseph and Hollis’ careers to this point beyond the numbers.

“Joseph was a backup safety who filled in once the starter, Coco Azema, got hurt. He had a pretty strong showing the last few weeks of the year, especially in Northwestern’s bowl game, where he racked up two early interceptions. Hollis was pretty unquestionably the Wildcats’ CB1 this year. Granted, the team didn’t play against a ton of star receivers, but he was tasked with a good amount on the perimeter — both in the pass and run.”

While they both are defensive backs, they will likely be used in two different ways. Hollis is the more physical and better overall player of the two with a knack for finding the ball carrier, but Joseph could fill more of one big void left by Bishop – a ballhawk keen for making plays in big games.

WVU Football Hopes Beanie Bishop Shows Sky is Limit for Transfer Defensive Backs

After making four starts and appearing in eight games as a junior in 2022, Hollis played in all 13 games for the Wildcats in 2023 and recorded an interception and three pass deflections. He also made 49 total tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.

Joseph, a Florida native and Pace High School product, totaled 24 tackles, three interceptions and one pass breakup in 13 games during the 2023 season. Joseph ended his career with the Wildcats in style. He intercepted two passes in their bowl win over Utah.

Can they make an immediate impact? What should reasonably be expected from them?

“I think given that the Big 12 tends to be a bit heavier on passing offense, that could play into their strengths. Joseph was never a sustained starter at Northwestern but showed good instincts and ball skills when he was on the field. Hollis is also a strong physical presence at 6-foot-2 and wasn’t targeted much (just 38 times in 13 games), but was pretty stout. The one thing Hollis definitely needs to clean up is staying in phase, because he had six penalties last year, including some backbreaking PIs.”

Success in the Big Ten does not necessarily mean success in the Big 12. As Locker brought up, the style of play is just different, making what players experience from opponents completely different as well. And something that can’t be ignored, being a top player on Northwestern, a program mostly out of the spotlight, is different than stepping up like Bishop did as a Mountaineer. The history and pressure that comes with playing at WVU and representing West Virginia is going to be another level from what Hollis and Joseph dealt with as Wildcats.

For some parting words and more on the new WVU transfer commits, Locker added, “I would just emphasize that Hollis can be good in the run, too. His best all-around game almost definitely came against Utah in Vegas. Figured he’d get some NFL looks after 2023, but he’ll probably try to boost his stock in Morgantown” to his analysis.

It’s obviously unreasonable to expect every transfer defensive back, especially the ones coming from another major conference, to mirror the success of Bishop. But with that said, the fact Bishop was able to reach a new level as a Mountaineer is a nice feather in the cap for the coaches and shows what can be possible. West Virginia now hopes history repeats itself with the latest additions.

Click here for the rest of WV Sports Now’s coverage of WVU football recruiting.

Bradley Locker’s work can be found at  

This story was originally published on Feb. 22.

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