The loss of starter Jarret Doege has created an experience vacuum for the West Virginia Mountaineers and its one that will dominate the headlines of the offseason until that vacuum is filled. Vying for the chance to fill the void are three very young players who do not have a lot of experience: Garrett Greene (RS-Soph), Will Crowder (RS-Fresh), and Nicco Marchiol (Freshman). Marchiol was playing high school ball six months ago and Will Crowder was the scout team quarterback last year, leaving Garret Greene as the only player who has any sort of game action under his belt.
The Mountaineers made a drastic switch in the offseason when head coach Neal Brown gave up play calling duties permanently and will let someone else call the plays. Brown went out in the offseason and hired former USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and tasked him with the job of fixing the offense and making sure the three quarterbacks were the guys to lead the Mountaineers.
“We’ve got three guys who are going to get reps during the spring”, Brown noted on Thursday, “They are going to go through fifteen practices and we’re going to get a really good evaluation”
This would seem to be the understanding and overall mood from the fans is that we need to see what the young players can do rather than bringing in another transfer. Brown noted as much that bringing in a transfer quarterback would hinder the young guys and keep the coaches from being able to properly evaluate the young talent they have assembled.
For the first time in Brown’s tenure and really the first time since 2013, the Mountaineers enter spring practice with a true and open quarterback competition. There is no transfer quarterback who was promised a job, or someone who assumes the job is his. There is no heir apparent waiting in the wings, despite what many feel is a job that Marchiol will eventually win. Its a true, honest, and open competition and the coaches are dedicated to letting the three guys duke it out and see who comes out on top.
“The belief is that one of them will take the reigns of the job or we will get it narrowed down to two. If not, then we’ll go find a guy. But I thought it was important for them and important for the trajectory of our football team to let those guys have the ability to go out and compete in the spring”.
The ability to let the guys go out and compete is important and more so, to be able to adjust and teach the kids is important to new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. When asked, Graham noted that he was excited to mold the players into what West Virginia wanted and needed at the most important position on the football field.
“I do think having young guys is fun. You get to mold them the way you want to mold them and you can ingrain things in them”, said Harrell as he spoke to the media. “You’re not necessarily breaking four-year habits. You’re breaking one or two-year habits. buy at the same time, you can’t replace experience either. Experience helps and game experience is the most important kind of experience. We’ll do the best we can to make up for it this spring and get those guys a ton of reps”
What each of the young quarterbacks lacks in game experience could be made up by their leadership qualities, something Harrell stressed as vitally important to the offense and the team as a whole.
“Whether you like it or not, everybody’s looking at you. The other thing that’s important is whenever we define our culture, those guys better embody it. If they don’t you’re in trouble as a football team. If the quarterbacks don’t embody your culture or they don’t embody who you want to be as a football team or what you are preaching as a coaching staff, you’re in a lot fo trouble. If they don’t embody it, no one will”