For the most part, Neal Brown’s recruiting strategy at West Virginia has been pretty typical of what most power five coaches do.
Brown has said he wants to recruit hard in any area within a 6-hour radius of Morgantown while also focusing on hotbed areas like New Jersey, the DMV and South Florida. Other than that, Brown has also pulled a few recruits out of southern states, an area he recruited heavily at his last stop at Troy University.
The one unique area where Brown has been looking for talent is over 4,000 miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe.
With the commitment of Finnish defensive end Edward Vesterinen this morning, Brown has now reeled in three recruits from across the pond in his two recruiting classes at WVU.
Brown’s first foray into international recruiting came last recruiting season when he signed both Akheem Mesidor and Jairo Faverus to WVU’s 2020 recruiting class. Mesidor, a defensive end, is an Ottowa, Ontario native but played high school football at the Clearwater Academy in Florida. Faverus is a cornerback from the Netherlands who played at the Bristol Academy in England.
Brown said the international recruits, mostly Canadians like Mesidor, that move into the U.S. and play high school football here are easier to evaluate and judge where their talent is at. For a prospect like Faverus who play overseas, Brown said they do not play against the higher levels of competition and so you have to evaluate them off of their physical and athletic traits.
Faverus was the second-highest rated European recruit in the 2020 class according to ESPN. He chose West Virginia over offers from Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Kent State, Minnesota, Penn State and Temple.
While Faverus was the first European recruit Brown got to sign with WVU, the second one was not far behind. Swedish tight end Victor Wikstrom was the very first verbal commit in WVU’s 2021 class, announcing his commitment nearly a full year ago in July of 2019.
Wikstrom is rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports, rivals and ESPN and the number two European prospect in 2021 by Europe’s Elite. Wikstrom played at the National Sweedish Football Academy and had offers from Charlotte, Eastern Michigan, Georgia Tech, UMass and Ole Miss.
Vesterinen is the third European to commit to Brown while at WVU. Europe’s Elite has him as the No. 14 European prospect in the 2021 class. He played for the Helsinki Roosters and had offers from UMass and Coastal Carolina.
Few other coaches have been as active in Europe as Brown has been recently. Since 2016, Virginia has recruited three Europeans, Rutgers two and Syracuse two.
During his signing day press conference on December 18, 2019, Brown said getting Mesidor and Faverus, as well as international recruiting as a whole excited him.
“You’re seeing this not just here, but in several places in college football,” Brown said. “It’s an international game which I think is incredible.”