MORGANTOWN — If you took a look at West Virginia’s football roster Wednesday, which is a perfectly acceptable act for the day we officially stepped into summer and realized the fall comes next, you discovered four quarterbacks with a scholarship for 2017. One was one of the best in the 2014 recruiting class. One was one of the best in the 2016 recruiting class.
That, of course, is good.
But neither signed a national letter of intent with the Mountaineers on signing day. Both Will Grier and Jack Allison transferred, the first from Florida, the second from Miami. That might matter to you, and how much it does is not the question. Rather, we need to know why it matters at all.
Suppose that Grier, who was reinstated Tuesday following a one-year suspension in 2015 and can now start the first game of the 2017 season, throws 30 touchdown passes and leads WVU to the Big 12 championship game. A fraction of the touchdowns and the income does not transfer to Florida.
Now say Grier performs admirably and takes his wife and their young daughter to the NFL — and so help me if you believe that’s an insincere gesture by Grier. That could leave Allison, who transferred last week, to take over next fall. Whatever Allison does would benefit the Mountaineers and not the Hurricanes.
It doesn’t matter how one, the other or both found their way to WVU. It matters that they did. It matters that the Mountaineers have two top-10 quarterback recruits for the foreseeable future. It matters that WVU has built and deployed a model for recruiting quarterbacks.
There’s nothing more difficult and inexact in recruiting than signing quarterbacks, and WVU is always going to work with an extra degree of recruiting difficulty. But what WVU has done is give itself a way to be better.
To begin, the Mountaineers are welcoming more quarterbacks to town. They’ll have Grier, Allison, sophomore Chris Chugunov and junior college transfer David Isreal on campus. Allison will sit out 2017, and we can assume Isreal will be the third quarterback behind Chugunov and the presumed starter Grier. But having four on scholarship is significant.
WVU has five running backs on scholarship. There are nine receivers on scholarship. The Mountaineers will play multiple running backs and receivers at once, never mind in a game, but ideally will use Grier as often as possible.
But the practice of collecting quarterbacks is logical, too. You need to win the quarterback raffle in college football, and you have better odds if you buy a bunch of tickets. Whether Grier is finished after 2017 or 2018, the Mountaineers have three possibilities to succeed him, and that doesn’t count additions the coaches are actively recruiting.
Where those additions come from will be worth watching. For various reasons, WVU simply has not signed a difference-maker quarterback recruit from high school. There was Ford Childress, who was suspended before he transferred. There was William Crest, who is now a receiver. There was Cody Saunders, who had to retire because of an arm issue. There was Chugunov, who is certainly part of the future plans.
Beyond that, nothing else, unless you accept that WVU has worked with and around that.
Through junior college, FBS and postgraduate transfers at various positions, the Mountaineers entered the lucrative marketplace for players in search of a new situation. With Clint Trickett and Skyler Howard before Grier and Allison, the Mountaineers have now branded themselves as a destination for transfer quarterbacks.
Seemingly everything in college football is about recruiting, and everything in recruiting is about marketing. Anyone can sell facilities, uniforms, the relationship between the coaches and the players and whatever other trinkets, because everyone has them or can finance them.
The Mountaineers have a unique selling point that can’t be bought. They have a specific opportunity for a narrow segment of the college football population. Through their recent past, they’ve produced an image that presents WVU as a destination for quarterback transfers — and let’s remember the highest ratio of high-profile transfers is at quarterback.
Very good schools lose very good players when there’s a concentration of very good players. That happens most often at quarterback, where there are a couple of elite recruits, just one football and no realistic way to play more than one quarterback and keep everyone happy. So very good players leave very good schools, and they’re very interested in finding another very good situation.
The Mountaineers must now continue to aggressively market themselves as that place for that caliber of player. Trickett and Howard have done some of the work, and Grier, Allison and Isreal must do more, provided Chugunov doesn’t take control in the future. If he does, that gives the Mountaineers a homegrown talent, and that won’t hurt a bit.