By MIKE CASAZZA
DAILY MAIL SPORTSWRITER
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Just last week, West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen wondered if the NCAA would legislate how graduated players with remaining eligibility transfer from one school to another. For now, it’s one of two ways players can transfer between FBS schools and play right away.
“It’s a topic of discussion I think the NCAA probably needs to get a handle on,” he said.
The NCAA addressed a separate transfer scenario at the end of the week, one that perhaps hints at a future change for postgraduate players, but on Monday a new postgraduate said he was transferring to WVU.
Cullen Christian, a defensive back who originally signed with Michigan in 2010 and transferred to Pitt before his sophomore year in 2011, told PantherDigest.com he’ll be on scholarship with the Mountaineers for the 2014 season. Christian added he could have two seasons of eligibility because he only played two games last season.
The Mountaineers can’t comment on the transfer until it’s complete, but a source told the Charleston Daily Mail the team had been pursuing Christian, who was at the spring game April 12.
Considered among the nation’s top cornerbacks in the 2010 recruiting class, Christian will be WVU’s fourth postgraduate transfer from a FBS program since Holgorsen took over in 2011. Devon Brown contributed as an inside receiver after arriving from Wake Forest in 2011. Running back Charles Sims was the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009 last season after starring for three seasons at Houston. Clint Trickett was 2-5 as the starting quarterback last season after spending three years and two seasons at Florida State. He’s currently listed as the team’s starter on a post-spring depth chart WVU released last week.
Holgorsen said the frequency of players transferring from four-year colleges is increasing and likely has the attention of the establishment. Postgraduate transfers can play immediately and until they fulfill their four seasons and five years of eligibility.
However, the NCAA tweaked a rule last week for the other type of immediately eligible transfer. Players leaving one school because of a “difficult life or family circumstances” will now have to sit out a year. Previously, they could seek a hardship waiver to play right away. Under the new rule, a player transferring from one FBS school to another because of a hardship will have to sit out a full year. He can petition for a sixth year of eligibility if he hasn’t played four seasons at the end of his five years.
“The graduate thing is becoming more and more popular, too,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t know if the NCAA will address it or not, but by being able to get four-year guys that really don’t have any issues at their current school, they’ve graduated and their grades are fine and they can become immediately eligible, I think it’s something that’s interesting to lot of coaches out there.”
Holgorsen said Sims was a good example of the rule in action. Holgorsen recruited Sims to Houston and was his offensive coordinator in 2009. Holgorsen left the following season for Oklahoma State, and Sims was academically ineligible. He nevertheless graduated in four seasons and expressed and ultimately exercised his desire to play against better competition in a larger conference with greater exposure.
“He knew what he was getting with me,” Holgorsen said
Sims led WVU in rushing and tied for the team lead in receptions and is projected to be picked as early as the second day of next week’s NFL Draft.
“He was able to showcase his skills at the highest level possible in (FBS) football,” Holgorsen said. “He was the (Big 12) newcomer of the year and first team all-Big 12 and he gained the respect of a lot of coaches across the country who hadn’t had a chance to coach against him or hadn’t had a chance to see him play because of the different conferences that exist.”
Holgorsen said last week WVU hadn’t been approached by many others looking for a similar arrangement, but the potential for concern was clear.
“I’ve been very vocal about this,” Holgorsen said. “(Sims) left the University of Houston and had his degree from there, but being able to be in the Big 12 -- and there’s been a lot of talk about the ‘Power Five’ conferences and a separation and a lot of that, and it’s not going to go away -- that’s something that’s going to continue to exist. Kids want to play at the highest level possible and we’re probably going to gain an advantage in recruiting.”
Holgorsen has made room for transfers of all varieties. Last week’s depth chart showed 15 transfers on offense, defense and special teams. Three were major-college transfers, two were from Division II schools and 10 were from junior colleges.
“I have seen an influx of junior college transfers,” Holgorsen said. “Why? I can’t give you a reason why. I just know it seems to be happening a lot more. We didn’t do it as much last year as we did two years ago, when we had to go out and try to increase the talent level that we felt like we had to improve in order to compete in the Big 12.”
The Mountaineers signed nine junior college players in the 2013 class and most either started or played a significant role at their position. Six junior college players were signed in the 2014 class. Three are already on campus and on the depth chart, though the depth chart makes room for more than two players at many positions, including quarterback, where Trickett is joined by Fairmont State transfer Logan Moore and junior college transfer Skyler Howard.
Holgorsen has taken only three traditional FBS transfers. Defensive end Derrick Bryant arrived from UCLA before the 2011 season, but didn’t make it through spring ball the following year. Former Miami cornerback Vernon Davis, Jr., is a backup inside receiver and punt returner. Rushel Shell is one of five running backs listed on the depth chart. He was one of the nation’s most highly regarded running backs in the 2012 recruiting class and was the second-leading rusher at Pitt as a freshman.
“I think if it’s a situation where a guy wants to be closer to home or something and their talent level is good enough, why not?” Holgorsen said. “We got a good one in Rushel Shell, who was a Pittsburgh kid who just needed to get away from home a little bit, but it’s still close enough for him to get back home. It made sense, and he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.