West Virginia men’s soccer’s big transition came at a less-than opportune time — both for their current players as well as their future ones.
Of course, recruiting is a tough task for any newly-hired head coach in their first offseason, with limited time, resources and, frankly, options to choose from. This is no less true for WVU’s Dan Stratford, who managed to bring in eight domestic recruits within his first two months.
“It was always going to be difficult to put in any type of contingency plan from a recruiting perspective because of the timing of that transition from a staffing perspective, and the reality, quite honestly, that when you get to January or February there’s a very good chance that the majority of the most talented domestic players have already been recruited or already signed [National Letters of Intent],” Stratford explained.
In the face of that adversity, Stratford and his staff were able to add eight new Mountaineers from the United States to their roster for the fall season, plus a batch from overseas.
“So we were glad to squeeze the additions that we did domestically within that recruiting class and then obviously we’re very, very happy with the international recruiting class that we’ve brought in,” he added.
The unprecedented times have routinely seen unprecedented measures being taken both in sports and the world at large. For one, transfers are simultaneously unpredictable and more prevalent in the midst of a coaching transition, leaving a series of question marks as to which of his players will still be on his roster when the season kicks off.
Stratford saw this in the case of spring enrollee Brevin Andreadis, who opted to make the move to Bowling Green after less than three months on campus.
“I’ve dealt with student-athletes that have requested to transfer and things of that nature, and in some cases, I support it,” he said. “In others, you obviously maybe try to encourage the student and inform them of why they would be better served staying with the program, but ultimately it needs to be with the well-being of the student-athlete first and foremost.”
In adding to his current roster, Stratford has a simple recruiting philosophy: bring in the best players you can while being mindful of positional needs. Getting to know those needs, however, can be tough without a familiarity with his current squad — something he missed out on during the spring.
The Mountaineers on the current roster come from a diverse set of places across the country and the world, equal to the diversity of restrictions under which they all are currently living. On top of that, he and his staff plan to bring in a high number of international recruits. International travel is highly restricted right now, making it very difficult to predict which recruits will be able to physically make their way to Morgantown.
“We’ll see. That’ll remain to be determined based on, obviously, what happens with a number of things for those international players and then exactly what players that are here come day one of the preseason,” he said.