MORGANTOWN – Dana Holgorsen did not leave West Virginia’s new coach Neal Brown a particular deeply stocked roster when he jumped to Houston after last season. However, but the roster now is markedly less talented as All-Big 12 safety Kenny Robinson Jr. has entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.
But, later in the day, WVU took a stride forward as one-time five-star wide receiver George Campbell, who has been plagued by injury, is coming to WVU as a graduate transfer, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The departure of Robinson comes as a shock and as a heavy hit on Brown’s attempt to build a winning team in his first season, as Robinson was probably WVU’s top returning player and a budding star on the college scene.
He joins Marcus Simms, who was the fastest player on the team and its top deep threat on an inexperienced receiving corps that already had lost David Sills V, Gary Jennings Jr. and Trevon Wesco for last season.
WVU will not comment, but it has been reported that Robinson’s departure is related to a academic situation involving the university’s code of student conduct.
Robinson, who is entering his junior year, started as a freshman and has been a standout from the start. A natural safety, Robinson played corner due to weakness at that position his first season but settled in at safety.
Last season he was second on the team in tackles to David Long Jr., who left following his junior year and was a third-round draft pick in the NFL.
He led the Mountaineers in interceptions in each of his first two seasons with 3 and 4. His 228 yards on those seven interceptions is third all-time at WVU even though he had two seasons left in his career.
While Simms’ exit caught no one by surprise, having missed spring football with “personal issues,” Robinson seemed eager and ready to move forward under the new coaching regime.
After last December’s bowl loss to Syracuse, a loss in which Robinson was ejected for leading with his helmet while hitting a receiver who was already down, the Wilkinsburg,
Pennsylvania, native said he was looking forward to being a leader this year after Toyous Avery and Dravon Askew-Henry graduated.
“I’m happy to take a lot of responsibility and take all the responsibility for what goes on with the defense. I look forward to it,” he said. “All of my life, my coaches have told me I was a leader ... that I have leader traits and qualities.
“With the older guys leaving next year I can’t wait to show the coaches that I can lead.”
Robinson’s backup at safety is junior Sean Mahone, who was a standout on special teams his first two seasons. Recruits Tykee Smith and Osita Smith will also get chances to play as freshmen now.
Campbell was a major recruiting victory for Jimbo Fisher and Florida State back in 2015, considered the No. 3 receiving recruit in the nation by at least one website. However, after playing as a freshman, he underwent hip surgery the next year.
Once a speedster, he finished his FSU career with just 13 catches for 206 yards.
In February he committed to Penn State, but last night backed out of that commitment and is now going to play at WVU.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel