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Mountaineers enter the transfer portal

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Two Mountaineer football players announced via Twitter on Wednesday that they are entering the transfer portal with the intent of leaving WVU and moving to another school.

Sophomore safety K.J. Martin and senior defensive lineman Darel Middleton each made Twitter statements about their impending transfer.

“Giving thanks to all those that I was fortunate to cross paths with, my brothers, coaches, support staff, and those who has (sic) believed in me to this point,” tweeted Martin, a native of Charleston. “I will never forgot (sic) the bonds we created, the lessons learned or the adversities experienced. With that said I have decided it’s in my best interest to enter the NCAA transfer portal. I’m looking forward to new opportunities. And ready to compete and get back to doing what I love.”

A Capital High graduate, Martin enrolled at WVU in January 2019 and earned playing time that fall as a true freshman at safety. He played in all 12 games for the Mountaineers in ‘19, starting four late in the season. He had a total of 50 tackles and five pass breakups that year. Martin opted out of the 2020 season but regained a spot as a backup at cat safety behind Sean Mahone this past spring. Martin’s playing time for the first half of the 2021 season was mainly limited to special teams action, though. He did not make the trips to Oklahoma or Baylor but saw snaps in WVU’s other four games. He was credited with three tackles.

Middleton transferred from Tennessee to West Virginia this past summer with the hope of gaining a regular role in the Mountaineers’ defensive front. That hope hadn’t yet emerged for the 6-foot-7, 305-pound native of Knoxville, Tennessee, though, as he saw action in just three games this year, recording two tackles.

Now his time at WVU is over.

“Many of you will be shocked, and the ones who (sic) not, are probably the ones waiting for some flames to go up to add more gasoline,” read Middleton’s tweet. “I feel as if I am loyal to the ones I love, trust, or feel have my best interest at heart. I have battled with a lot of things many DON’T know about: mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s been hard leaving my family, friends, community, home, and long-time brothers that can never be replaced. I am not asking for sympathy or forgiveness. I entered the transfer portal due to lack of maturity, accountability, and uncertainty. When I transferred to West Virginia, I thought it was the best move. I thought it was the best opportunity in a small window of time I have to land a position and be on the field in the fall. Things have been great here at West Virginia, but due to unforeseen circumstances, they couldn’t find a permanent role for me. I am disappointed, but I have the utmost respect for the people at West Virginia. I WANT TO THANK Coach Neal and his staff for giving me the opportunity. I Want to Thank Coach Mike Joseph because you made me realize what I’ve been doing. You are an amazing man in general and the best Strength Coach I’ve been involved with. I ALSO WANT TO THANK the academic staff, the fans, the community for welcoming me with open arms. Lastly, thank you to my brothers for welcoming me with open arms as well (GreenyGang ForEver!)

“I have a year left of eligibility, graduation date is the end of spring semester ’22,” continued Middleton’s tweet. “I will be opting out the rest of the season, and I will be focusing on graduating and working on my physical and mental health. While that is going on and in preparation of graduation, I will begin the process of finding a home for the remaining of my eligibility and pursuit of my graduate program – D99 Out”

At his weekly press conference Tuesday, WVU head coach Neal Brown had indicated Middleton was leaving the program, though he said at the time that Martin’s absence at Baylor was due to an illness.

“Middleton, I would say at this point is no longer with us,” said Brown. “Kerry was sick. He practiced Monday last week but didn’t practice anytime after that.”

Neither Middleton nor Martin are now listed on WVU’s official online roster. Middleton will have one season of college eligibility remaining, while Martin will have three.

Two other former Mountaineer scholarship players also are transferring out, a WVU representative confirmed. Linebacker James Thomas and bandit Eddie Watkins also have each recently been removed from West Virginia’s roster.

A native of Evergreen, Alabama, Watkins arrived at WVU in the summer of 2020 but did not see any game action last fall. He played in two contests this season (LIU and VT) and was credited with one tackle.

Thomas also was a member of West Virginia’s recruiting class of 2020. The Baconton, Georgia, native played in four games as a true freshman, though he did not record a tackle. He had not seen any game action this year, and now he will look to find playing time at another college.

Both Thomas and Watkins will have four years of college eligibility remaining.

Martin, Middleton, Thomas and Watkins are the first four Mountaineer scholarship players to leave the football program since the 2021 season began. Last year, WVU saw 16 scholarship football players enter the transfer portal.