Since Neal Brown got to West Virginia, he has made his recruiting strategy known, through both his words and his actions. After signing 18 recruits in his first recruiting class at WVU last December, Brown plainly stated his main recruiting strategy.
“We took a six-hour radius around Morgantown and that needs to be our primary recruiting area,” Brown said on Dec. 18. “I thought we did an okay job. I think we’ve got to continue to build relationships and grow our brand and grow our presence in that (area).”
Brown also highlighted areas like New Jersey, South Florida and the DMV (D.C., Mayland and Virginia) as areas he wants to recruit heavily while at WVU. In his first recruiting class, Brown showed exactly what he was talking about. In the 2020 class, WVU signed four players from within the six-hour radius of Morgantown, four from Florida, two from New Jersey and two from Maryland.
One area that Brown did not do well in last season was the Western Pennsylvania and Ohio region. Brown did not get a single recruit from that area in last year’s class.
“We’ve got to get better in some areas, the state of Ohio, Western pa., we’ve got to get better,” Brown said. “But we’re making some inroads and sometimes those relationships and inroads take time.”
Moving into Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, however, will, of course, put Brown in contention with the only other power five school in the area, Pittsburgh and head coach Pat Narduzzi. Narduzzi has recruited the local area well since arriving at Pitt. In his last three classes, Narduzzi has pulled 17 recruits out of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and he thinks the 2021 crop could be the area’s best yet.
“This is as good of a class that has been intact in this state of Pennsylvania since I’ve been here,” Narduzzi told reporters on a recent teleconference. “This year is a heck of a year in the state of Pennsylvania, which makes me sleep a little bit better knowing that there are players in our backyard this year, again as good as it’s been in five years.”
Despite only being in his second year at WVU, Brown has already battled with Narduzzi over several recruits in the 2020 and 2021 class. In the 2020 class, Brown signed four recruits who also had offers from Pitt. On the flip side, Narduzzi signed seven players that also had WVU offers. There has already been a significant overlap between the two in the 2021 class.
So far, Brown has verbal commitments from four players that also have Pitt offers: Jaylen Anderson, Andrew Wilson-Lamp, Hammond Russell and Saint McLeod. Narduzzi has five verbal commits from players that hold WVU offers: Nahki Johnson, Terrence Enos, Javon McIntyre and Trevion Stevenson. Among those nine players, three are from Pennsylvania and three are from Ohio.
To make the battle even more contentious, both Brown and Narduzzi are putting together very strong 2021 recruiting classes. Right now, 247Sports has Pitt’s 12-man class ranked at 23rd best in the nation and WVU’s eight-man class at 34. The fight between the two should only heat up from here, as the more scholarship offers each one sends out, the more overlap will be created. Just Thursday, Brown offered two more prospects that already hold offers from Pitt.
With the Backyard Brawl set to return to the gridiron in 2022, there could be a lot of familiarity between the two teams and a lot of players looking to prove their coach right or the other coach wrong.