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It's Time to Give West Virginia Quarterback Skyler Howard His Due

Howard's overachieving ways are usually what Mountaineer fans flock too, but the respect has been slow in coming. It's time to get on board.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The short version of Skyler Howard's story is well known - a basically unrecruited Texas high school football player goes to Stephen F. Austin where they tell him he has to play running back. Howard then transfers to JUCO where he shows enough quarterback chops that an offensive guru decides to take a chance on him and gets him to Morgantown. Since becoming a Mountaineer Howard has admirably filled in for an injured Clint Trickett, mocked Johnny football, holds about a 70% winning percentage as a starting quarterback, and has won 9 of the last 10 games as a starter. On top of his on the field success, he by all accounts has been a model teammate and respected leader of the 4-0 Mountaineers, and if you think his overachieving is limited to football think again.

Here is a question - why is Howard not more appreciated by the fan base? Here's another serious question - how differently would he be treated if he overachieved as much as he has and he was a West Virginia native? This guy has consistently outkicked his coverage, and continues to exceed expectations. Not since Paul Millard and Brad Lewis before him has the WVU fan base been so critical towards a Mountaineer signal caller. Most fans have done their best Silky Johnson impersonations when talking about Howard, but the numbers don't lie. If Howard continues to put up the numbers he has this season then Howard is on pace to finish his career as perhaps the second most prolific passer in Mountaineer history behind only Geno Smith. Before the season started we previewed the Mountaineer quarterbacks, and noted that if Howard made the typical progression for quarterbacks under Dana Holgorsen's tutelage his completion rate would improve from 54.8% to 63% and his quarterback rating could raise from 134.7 to 151.6. Four games into the season Howard's completion rate is at 65% and his quarterback rating is at 147.6. In his most recent game Howard led a memorable comeback that was capped off by him scrambling and then throwing a strike for what would be the game-winning touchdown (Aside - for all the criticisms of Dana Holgorsen's quarterback recruiting can we give him some credit for developing Howard?).

So I'm all in on Skyler Howard this year. Do I think he will ever be mistaken for the likes of Marcus Mariotta or Jameis Winston? No, but in terms of WVU quarterbacks he is statistically speaking in the upper tier. Not only that, Howard is the type of player WVU fans, and West Virginia natives specifically should embrace. Howard is a hard working kid who has exceeded expectations, and has the chance to continue to do so. Howard is someone who has fought against the odds and the naysayers, and is winning. If the Mountaineers continue their run this year it seems fitting that an unrecruited afterthought be the one to lead the Mountaineers to the promised land  and a Big 12 Championship all while etching his own name into the history books on the way.