Mountaineers end spring still looking at quarterbacks
CHARLESTON — Coming into Neal Brown’s first spring as West Virginia University’s football coach, the hope for him and his staff was to find a standout among those vying to be WVU’s next starting quarterback.
That was the hope. The reality is none of the three — graduate transfer Austin Kendall, redshirt junior Jack Allison and redshirt freshman Trey Lowe — have performed head and shoulders above the others.
Brown said all along that while he’d like to find a quarterback sooner, he didn’t mind letting the competition extend through the spring and into the summer. Now, with the spring session nearing its end, that appears to be the position the Mountaineers are in.
Saturday, however, the quarterbacks will get one more chance to show off their skills this spring when the Mountaineers take the field for the Gold-Blue Game (noon, WOWK-13) at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
Still, with no real separation among the three so far this spring, it remains possible, if not probable, more than one of the three will get a chance to shine when the 2019 season begins.
None of the three has a ton of playing experience. Kendall was a backup at Oklahoma before transferring to WVU. Allison’s lone start was last season’s Camping World Bowl loss to Syracuse. Lowe played just a few snaps in the bowl. So it stands to reason all could get an opportunity to show what they can do in a real game for the new staff this fall.
“Basically, what we’ve done in the past at Troy is the backup quarterback played at least in the four non-conference games,” quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan, who was on Brown’s staff at Troy, said. “That’s what we did at Troy. Will we do that here? I don’t know, but we have done that in the past, and that’s to get the guy some game-time experience.
“Outside of Jack, and Jack played the bowl game, Austin hasn’t played a collegiate game, really. Trey’s played a couple snaps.
“So, as far playing experience, we don’t have any other than Jack in one game. So, you have to build that as the season goes, just in case something bad happens.”
Also worth noting is the presence of walk-on Trent Jackson. The redshirt freshman has been the fourth quarterback in the group this spring, and while a lot of the attention in this quarterback race has focused on the three scholarship players, Jackson has drawn positive reviews from both Brown and Reagan in recent weeks.
Jackson, who played at Kent Island High in Stevensville, Maryland, was the standout among the quarterbacks during last Saturday’s scrimmage at Milan Puskar Stadium
“I tell you, I was really pleased with Trent,” Reagan said. “That’s really the most action he’s gotten in 11-on-11 throughout the entire spring, and I thought he handled himself really well. I thought he was really good with his eyes. He takes notes in meetings. He loves the game. We can tell how much time they watch film when they’re not on the field with what we call the 360. He watches a ton of film. He’s intelligent when it comes to football. He’s learning, and I thought he handled the scrimmage really well. I think he had 13 or 14 snaps and only had three minuses, and really, that was nit-picky on carrying out some fakes and stuff.”
West Virginia was loaded at running back last season, and the good news at that position is the Mountaineers returned four players who made plays out of the backfield in 2019.
This year, the offense will look a little different, with WVU expected to utilize more twoback formations. That means more opportunities for more running backs to get on the field. Which two, however, remains to be seen and likely won’t be sorted out Saturday.
“I think all of those guys are capable of being that 20-plus carry guy,” WVU co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Chad Scott said. “Some have shown they’ve been able to do it. Obviously, (senior) Kennedy (McKoy) has done it in the past, (senior) Martell (Pettaway) has done it in the past, the two young guys, (sophomore) Leddie (Brown) and (redshirt sophomore Alec) Sink (Sinkfield) haven’t done it because they’re younger guys.
“But I think we have a couple guys that have the ability to do it. Right now, we’re just trying to get a feel for them and see who can do what, who’s better at what, who can protect and run effectively, who can make plays in space, all that right now.”