It’s not hard to understand why coaches in Neal Brown’s situation often hold off on naming a starter. Fall camp is all about competing for playing time, and in the particular case of West Virginia’s quarterback competition, you have two transfers who were absolutely promised every chance at starting when they agreed to come here. However, after an extremely diplomatic few months, Brown finally made the decision that Mountaineer Nation was not-so-secretly hoping for and named Jarret Doege the starter for West Virginia’s September 12th battle with Eastern Kentucky.
Doege started the final four games of the season in 2019 in relief of Austin Kendall after the latter struggled in leading the team to a 3-5 start. Doege’s 2-2 record was only a marginal improvement over Kendall, but he offers a significant upgrade in two key areas that I think completely change our ceiling for 2020: accuracy and pocket presence.
Regarding the former, Doege completed 65.8% of his 120 passing attempts last year while Kendall completed just 61.5% of his 304. That 4% improvement might not feel like much, but over the course of a season with 424 pass attempts it turns into nearly two extra completions per game, and that could be significant if those two completions extend drives or get us 6 points instead of 3. Also, when you look at their accuracy on certain routes the difference is even more significant, most notably on the shallow cross. Per ProFootballFocus:
“Brown loves to call his mesh concept - where two receivers will run shallow cross routes and rub off one another - and the difference between [Doege and Kendall] on that concept was incredible. On crossing routes targeted less than 10 yards downfield, the difference in their passing grade was 24 points. If the mesh concept is going to be an essential part of your offense, you need to execute its most basic route: the shallow cross. Doege did just that a season ago, and he figures to do so once again in 2020.”
That’s an extremely salient point, because if you watch us, we really do run that concept all the time, and Kendall really did struggle to both read and execute it last year. Look for guys like Sam James, T.J. Simmons, and Winston Wright to be the primary beneficiaries this year from having Doege in there to deliver them the football in spots where they can get that YAC, and for our offense to be better and more explosive as a result.
Secondly, Doege is better at moving around the pocket than Kendall, which is important when you’re a bit, uh, shaky up front. We can see this difference most notably in PFF’s Time in Pocket metric. Not only was Doege’s time to throw was nearly half a second higher than Kendall’s in 2019 (2.64 seconds vs 2.23), but his completion percentage after 2.5 seconds in the pocket was a full 10.5% higher than Kendall’s, which tells me that he’s doing a much better job keeping his wits about him and keeping his eyes downfield while navigating the chaos. This tendency to hold the ball, combined with the fact that Doege’s a bit less athletic than Kendall, resulted in a slightly higher sack rate (1.5 per game with Kendall, 1.75 with Doege), but the trade off is worth in my opinion when you consider how many big plays happen after the play breaks down.
So to conclude, this was really just a lot of words to say that I agree with and am excited about Real Deal Neal’s decision. It’s hard to deny that the energy around the team changed as soon as Doege took over, and I’m hopeful that he (and we) can hit the ground running against Eastern Kentucky. Let’s GO!