With the dawn of a new year, the Mountaineers find themselves looking at the fourth season of Neal Brown’s tenure both with hope for the future and the doom of the past. Through three seasons, the Mountaineers have been rudderless on offense, averaging right at 24 points per game. Worse 16 times in 35 games they’ve failed to break that mark, and another 4 times they hit exactly 24 points. 20 times in 35 games they’ve score 24 or fewer points.
Much of that blame, fairly or not, has been laid at the immobile feet of former starting quarterback Jarret Doege. Doege was not the first quarterback for the Neal Brown regime, that honor falls to former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Austin Kendall, who transferred to the Mountaineers in the spring of 2019. Doege would take over for Kendall in the Texas Tech game of 2019 and hold onto the starting spot for over 2 seasons with the Mountaineers. Whether Doege made the choice or the coaching staff helped nudge him in that direct, Doege entered his name into the transfer portal this week, clearing the way for a true quarterback competition come this spring between Garret Greene, Will “Goose” Crowder and Nicco Marchiol.
Greene is the most experienced of the starters and the most explosive with his legs. Despite only carrying the ball 48 times in extremely limited duty, Greene finished with 297 yards, less than 20 yards fewer than Tony Mathis. Mathis had 40 carries in his last three games. Greene saw action in 10 of 12 games this season, often coming in on the third series to run a set series of plays. He wasn’t given much of a chance by the coaching staff, who often pulled him mid-series or inserted him mid-drive at random times.
Greene struggled with the run-pass option concepts of the offense and often chose to pull the ball and “call his own number” trusting his own legs rather than throwing the ball or giving it to a running back. The coach made it clear that the decisions in the passing game were the biggest hinderance in Greene’s development.
“Garrett’s gotta continue to grow,” Brown said. “The deal is with Garrett, our receivers have been our most productive piece of our offense, and Garrett’s gotta continue his ability to get them the ball. That’s where he’s gotta show the most growth.”
Will “Goose” Crowder
Crowder saw much less playing time this year than Greene did, given that he is still a true freshman. Crowder often headed up the scout team and earned high praise from the head coach.
“I’m really excited about him,” Brown said. “He can really throw the ball, he’s been a terrific leader on the scout team and he just completes passes. I’m really excited about Goose.”
Crowder saw action in one game, against Long Island, when he completed two passes for 28 yards. Crowder fits the mold of the pocket quarterback. Crowder’s senior season saw him throw for 20 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards, which earned him a Sports Illustrated All-American Finalist and a 2019 All-Birmingham High School honorable mention by AL.com.
The incoming four-star freshman who has many Mountaineer fans ready to anoint him the next great passing legend at West Virginia, Marchiol made a name for himself this season when, in a televised high school game, he led his high school team back from an 18-point deficit in the final two minutes. It was an extremely impressive display of grit and will as he put his team on his shoulders and found a way to pull out the victory.
Even better is that Marchiol has displayed a bit of fleetness in his feet, showing off some running ability. Nicco would earn the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Years honor after throwing for 2300 yards and 37 touchdowns in his senior season.
“He’s got some ‘it’ factor,” Neal Brown said of Marchiol. “He’s going to be a guy that’s a fan favorite from day 1. He’s got the charisma. He’s got strong leadership capabilities. He’s a student of the game. He loves football. He’s been groomed from an early age by his father Ken to be a Division One and and hopefully an NFL quarterback.”
While the three quarterbacks above are nice to think about, the fact remains that they have thrown less than 50 passes in their careers at the college level. There are no starts at the college level and they’ve seen minimal college defenses. Also to be considered is the fact that you have a redshirt sophomore leading a redshirt freshman and a true freshman in the ways to handle the college game. That leads us to the transfer portal and the desperate need for at least a one-year rental to mentor these young stallions if not lead them in the right direction.
Had I felt better earlier in the week, I would have said Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward was someone to be considered but he just posted that he will be making his decision on Monday and WVU is not in the mix of his schools. What West Virginia is looking for is what they just lost - an experienced signal caller with one year remaining that can help mentor the young quarterbacks in the room and potentially win the job. Jarret Doege was capable of that but the coaching staff and fans knew what they were getting in 2022 with Doege.
The staff should look for a quarterback, whether or not they are better than Doege for the minimal fact that these young kids need to know how to do study film, how to read defenses and someone to ask that isn’t a coach. Another possibility is Division II quarterback Tyson Bagent, a WV native. Bagent passed for 5,000 yards and 53 TD in 2021 and 12,454 yards and 118 TD in his collegiate career at Shepherd College.