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West Virginia Football 2016 Player Previews: Skyler Howard

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The Mountaineers will pin their hopes on senior signal caller Skyler Howard. Despite an up and down junior season, Howard had one of the better seasons in Mountaineer history in 2015.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

2015 Season Stats & Review

Completions Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt Completion Percentage Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards Rushing Touchdown
221 403 3,145 7.8 54.8 24 16 134.7 157 502 6

Skyler in 2015 was up and down. He came out of the gates blazing, throwing for 916 yards in the non-conference schedule. He threw 9 touchdowns against 1 interception while adding an addition 88 yards on the ground. On the whole, his first three games were spectacular. He completed 69% of his passes and had over 1,000 total yards.

As brilliant as the statistics suggest Howard was in the first three games, there were flashes of the Liberty Bowl Skyler. He was still over-throwing receivers who were open. He was failing to lead receivers enough to allow them to catch and run.

Once West Virginia entered the Big 12 Conference schedule, things took a dramatic turn for Skyler and the team as a whole. Starting the first four games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU, all of whom were at full health did not help. Skyler and the team struggled against Oklahoma in Norman.

Oklahoma took a 24-7 lead into halftime before West Virginia made some adjustments. WVU used the third quarter to reassert themselves and made it a game, narrowing the lead to 27-24 in favor of Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield would use a 71-yard pass to Duron Neal to give the Sooners a ten point lead going into the fourth quarter. Skyler had three straight turnovers, a strip sack fumble that directly resulted in a touchdown and back to back interceptions that kept WVU from ever getting back into the game.

The rest of the month of October wasn't much better for Howard as he failed to complete more than 53% of his passes and other than Baylor only threw one touchdown per game. AS the competition talent faded, Skyler's yardage and stats didn't improve dramatically. WVU won games in November by leaning on the rushing talents of Rushell Shell and Wendell Smallwood.

One the calendar turned to 2016 and WVU had time to regroup, recoup and rest, Skyler looked much like he did against Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland. Against Arizona State in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl, Howard threw for a bowl record 532 yards. He completed 5 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions. His passes looked much crisper, his deep throws had more purpose and less air and there was noticeable improvement in his overall play.

2016 Outlook

Skyler is going to be piece that determines the Mountaineers' fate. If Skyler has a good game, the Mountaineers have a great chance of winning. If Skyler has a bad game, Country Roads will not be playing. Mountaineer fans should be excited for Skyler as a senior. First, he's now had a full year in the system and generally speaking, the more time a player is in a system, the better he gets.

For Dana Holgorsen, he has had three quarterbacks who had a second season in his version of the Air Raid. All three showed dramatic improvement from year one to year two. The improvement is about an 8 point increase in completion percentage. If Howard is increasing his completion percentage 8 points, that is going to result in more first downs, touchdowns and better overall efficiency for West Virginia.

Projected 2016 Stats

Completions Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt Completion Percentage Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Rushing Attempts Rushing Yards Rushing Touchdown
265 425 3,850 9.0 62.3 31 11 157.3 125 400 6