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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Dante Stills and Zach Frazier topped off a big week in college football for North Central West Virginia and the Fairmont/Clarksburg area in particular by being named to the All-Big 12s first and second team respectively.

It is difficult to imagine the impact the area has had on college football over the years, but this week Nick Saban guided his Alabama football team past rival Auburn with a thrilling, come-from-behind four-overtime victory to advance to the SEC's championship game.

And Rich Rodriguez was named head coach at Jacksonville State as it moves into FBS football as a member of Conference USA.

Then, on Thursday, the Big 12 — which is awaiting its championship game — came out with awards for the 2012 season and the senior Stills was named to the defensive team at tackle while Frazier, a sophomore, was named second team all-conference.

For Stills, who was selected the pre-season Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, his all-conference play rewarded his decision to return for his senior year.

Earlier he admitted that he had considered jumping into the NFL draft pool with his brother, Darius, last year.

"My goal going into my junior year was I wanted to leave," he said in pre-season interviews. "I wanted to be that three-year dude, but during the year I wasn't performing at the level I expected to be at. I was good, but my stats weren't showing it. I just didn't do as much as I needed to go to the next level."

So while Darius went into the draft as the Big 12's Defensive Lineman of the Year for 2020, only to be bypassed in the draft, Dante came back and worked on the things he felt he needed to improve.

The result was a big season, even though offenses were scheming to double team him.

In the voting of the Big 12 coaches who were not allowed to vote for their own players, Stills left with top honors at his position.

He started all 12 games and finished with 32 tackles, including 25 solo stops, with a team-high six sacks and also a team-leading 13 tackles for losses.

He accomplished what any defensive lineman sets out to accomplish.

"Our main focus is doing our job, getting up field and making penetration," he said. "I'm just trying to cause havoc."

While he was doing that while becoming a leader on defense, sophomore Frazier was gaining league-wide respect in his first full season starting at center.

Like the Stills brothers, Frazier came out of Fairmont Senior's football program and made an immediate impression across the league as a true freshman when he was forced due to injury into starting out of position at guard.

There was none of that this year, Frazier being named the starting center from the beginning and he was a dominant player.

He played all 841 offensive snaps in 2021 and on more than 1,400 snaps in his first two years. He was a three-time WVU Offensive Lineman of the Game (Virginia Tech, TCU, LIU) and finished with a team-high 60 knockdowns and 28 great blocks.

Frazier only surrendered two sacks for the entire season and graded out to 90% or better in 10-of-12 games on overall performance, posting 88% in the other two games.

Earning All-Big 12 honorable mention were defensive back Alonzo Addae, running back Leddie Brown, linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo, wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, offensive lineman James Gmiter, placekicker Casey Legg, defensive back Sean Mahone, defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor, offensive lineman Wyatt Milum, punter Tyler Sumpte and wide receiver/returner Winston Wright Jr.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — The love-hate affair that West Virginia fans have had with quarterback Jarret Doege took a new and, to be quite honest, unexpected twist on Saturday as he was leading the Mountaineers to a 31-23 victory over Texas, keeping alive their chances to qualify for a post-season bowl game.

For much of two seasons, fans have been unappreciative of Doege's efforts, to try and find a polite way to put the social media postings and barroom conversations that have been taking place.

Fans were upset some last year and certainly lost whatever true affection they had for Doege in the Liberty Bowl when he had to be benched before the Mountaineers could get enough offense to defeat Army.

Many, maybe most, expected Garret Greene, the redshirt freshman who had become the anti-Doege through no doings of his own or of Neal Brown's, figured sooner or later the plug would be pulled ... but like Father Time, he kept on going out there. Failures in the passing game were pinned on him by his critics.

Successes, it seemed, were all great catches to those same people.

It was a case of Doege being unable to win, and you can take that any way you want.

But he deserved a break on Saturday. It was Senior Day and he had spent his career here either being sacked by unhappy fans or blitzing linebackers. This, however, was a day to let bygones be bygones, by golly.

But Doege had a few surprises up his WVU jersey sleeve. The one-time Bowling Green quarterback came up with an amazing game against Texas, throwing for 290 yards and three touchdowns but, more important, making victory possible with some of the most amazing escapism since Patrick White played quarterback.

He did it not with legs, as did White, but by turning bad situations into good one, once converting a third-and-18 into a first down en route to a touchdown after a pair of sacks and another time turning a third-and-16 into another first down.

"We had some third-and-longs and were able to overcome them" Brown said. "You know, we've been kind of hot and cold on third and longs this year. I thought he did a nice job. He was accurate, didn't put the ball in jeopardy and our receivers made some contested catches as well."

On Senior Day, Jarret Doege heard cheers.

And fans heard something, too, for in the midst of the game, ESPN2's sideline reporter confided that she had spoken to Doege this week or earlier in the day and he had told her that he was planning to return to play another year, the year he gets to make up for the COVID season.

It wasn't as though we couldn't have guessed that, especially since what Neal Brown said during the week and would repeat after this game about what a strange Senior Day this was.

"I wouldn't take a whole lot credence about who walked and who didn't walk, just because they make a big deal out of it," Brown said. "If they wanted to walk, they walked. I would say that some of the guys that walked will come back. Some of the guys that didn't walk, I don't know. They may not come back."

Doege seems a likely candidate to return, which would give Brown an experienced quarterback — experienced? He surpassed the 10,000-yard passing mark between Bowling Green and WVU during the game. With that, he could bring his young quarterbacks along slowly, use Greene as he has been, work true freshman Will "Goose" Crowder in and redshirt his prized incoming freshman quarterback out of Arizona, Nicco Marchiol.

Then there's a matter of facing the truth. Doege is not an NFL quarterback, so why not extend his career as long as he can. He'll have forever and day after its over to let the bruises heal.

And, like most athletes, he craves competition.

Say what you like about him, he is similar to former WVU QB Skyler Howard in that he takes a licking and keeps on ticking, driven by inner fires that would burn some from the inside out but others use to spit out at adversity like a fire-breathing dragon.

Athletes like Doege don't run away from challenges. They run to them, just as a moth comes to a flame even though he knows he may be burned.

While we all know that Texas at this moment is not very good, having been eliminated from bowl consideration yesterday, he certainly sees this as a breakthrough, one he can build on next week against a weak Kansas defense and then hone through the spring and summer to set up a super senior season.

He admitted that he has a strong relationship with receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who helped him with his stats for the day wiht a spectacular diving catch of a perfectly thrown pass he lofted deep down field and would like to spend next year reaping benefits from it.

The one thing we don't know is whether Brown wants to have him back or whether he feels it's time to move on and see what's behind Door No. 3.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — It may be Senior Day when Texas comes to Mountaineer Field to take on West Virginia at noon Saturday in a game shown on ESPN2, which ordinarily becomes a nostalgic look into the past, but this, instead, may turn into a celebration of the future within the two struggling programs.

In fact, there is reason to believe the game may be taken over by two of the best freshmen receivers in the country. That includes Texas' Xavier Worthy, who has already made his bones this year with 49 receptions for 831 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Kaden Prather of West Virginia, who had been talked about more than he had be played until last Saturday's loss to Kansas State when he began flashing the skills that previously had only been verbal promises.

Worthy certainly has been ... eh, worthy of the praise heaped upon him as his 11 TD catches top college football and his 831 yards through the air lead the Big 12.

Before this past week when Kansas stunned Texas and the college football world by upsetting the 31-point favored Longhorns, 57-56, WVU was aware of what kinds of problems he would present them, but he put an explanation point on it when he caught 14 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns.

The 14 catches were more than any freshman ever at Texas had caught and one short of the school's single-game mark.

“Worthy is playing as good as any freshman in the country and they do a good job of getting him the ball,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said during his Tuesday press conference. “He’s fearless, he can run and he does a nice job of high-pointing the ball.”

With WVU minus one starting cornerback in the injured Nicktroy Fortune and with having been scorched far too often by long pass completions this season, Worthy is sure to draw special attention from defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley.

“Usually when you do find him, they move him, so you have to find him again,” Lesley said. “That’s the chess match. They’re going to get him the ball and we know that, and he’s going to make some plays. He has against everybody. It’s not like he’s going to stop that and I’d be naive to think that.

“So you’re going to have to constantly adjust to where he’s at and how they’re trying to use him, because they’re going to use him a lot of different ways and they’ve been pretty open about it. They’re going to get him 15, 20 touches a game. We know we’re going to have to find him wherever he’s at.”

Texas' attention on Prather won't be quite so acute, since he is just now starting to come out of his cocoon and has only seven catches for 106 yards, an average of 15 yards per catch. He is still looking for his first TD reception, but as noted earlier, this is about the future and the growth that is expected out Prather.

“He has done it the right way,” WVU offensive coordinator Gerad Parker said. “Compliments to our older guys to get him to that point. Sometimes, we as coaches make mistakes in playing a guy too early and too soon based off a lot of different things and variables that go into it. He has learned that the truth lies in the work. In order to earn the right to play in games like that and play at a high level, there’s a process that has to be followed to get a young player there.”

Veteran Bryce Ford-Wheaton has been Prather's mentor and guiding light.

"He did exactly what everybody expected him to do," Ford-Wheaton said after the Kansas State game. "We have a high standard for Kaden. He did literally exactly what we thought he was going to do with the opportunity."

The opportunity came when Isaiah Esdale suffered rib injuries.

"It was a good game for him. It really was his first time out there playing meaningful reps and he had a pretty good game," Ford-Wheaton said.

Ford-Wheaton has a vested interest in the freshman out of Montgomery Village, Maryland.

"We are very close," Prather admitted. "He had the job of being my big brother when I got here and not letting me make the same mistakes he made. He has done a good job of teaching me."

"They gave me the job of really just kind of mentoring him when he first came in in January, and he’s done everything I’ve told him to do." Ford-Wheaton said. "My coach is hard on me coaching him, so he knows that there can’t be a dropped ball when somebody comes in the game. He’s embraced that role, so he’s learning everything here and now, and like I said, he’s playing at a high level."

This is what Brown had been expecting once he felt Prather was ready to have the wraps come off.

“You could see it coming. He got some balls thrown to him,” Brown said. “That’s the hard thing about playing wideout, a lot of things have to go right for you to get the ball. He has really played better. I felt like he was coming and I think he is another guy that you talk about projecting well. I think he is going to be a big-time player. You saw some of that on Saturday.”

There was a solid reason to go slowly with Prather. He missed his senior season in high school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was very bummed out,” Prather admitted. “We had big plans for my senior year. We were the runner-up in 2019 so we wanted to get that state championship for 2020. But due to COVID, we didn’t get that done.

“It didn’t set me back at all. My wide receiver coach and trainer, Miles Gray, we worked from the pandemic until I left. So I came here ready.”

And now he's getting the chance to lay the foundation for his future.

MANHATTAN, Kansas — An inconsolable Bryce Ford-Wheaton sat on the Mountaineer bench as the clock ticked down on West Virginia’s 34-17 loss Saturday at Kansas State, his face buried in his hands.

The emotions of a season slipping away were obvious, and his teammates tried to comfort the sophomore receiver.

“Our frustrations are pretty high right now,” admitted Ford-Wheaton, who had recomposed himself by the time he met with the media after the game. “We have certain non-negotiables in our program, and for us to shoot ourselves in our foot hurts. That should have been a different game than that with a different outcome, but we shot ourselves in our foot and couldn’t really recover.”

West Virginia’s miscues included a dropped pass that led to a KSU interception plus two other turnovers. Also, WVU allowed the Wildcats to pick up a blocked punt and score a TD (the first time that has happened to a Mountaineer team in 23 years), and West Virginia missed numerous opportunities to change the outcome.

Ford-Wheaton caught five passes for 67 yards on Saturday. As a team, WVU had 268 passing yards, as quarterback Jarret Doege completed 27 of his 45 throws. A couple were dropped, though, including one by Winston Wright on the second offensive play of the game that led to a K-State interception. Ford-Wheaton also had a potential touchdown on a deep first-half pass go through his hands.

“Usually, you’re trying to do too much, which is what hurts you,” the receiver said when asked about the root cause of the mistakes. “They didn’t show us anything we didn’t expect. It was just us shooting ourselves in our foot.

“There is definitely frustration. I feel it’s time for us to turn around the program,” Ford-Wheaton added. “I just want to make sure we’re on the right track. We’re not trying to lose, clearly. I feel like everyone is trying their best. We just have dial in and find the little things going wrong and lock in and improve.”

WVU’s defense limited Kansas State to 299 yards of total offense, which is 79 below the Wildcats’ average, but the Mountaineer defenders felt they had plenty of mistakes of their own in allowing KSU to score 34 points, though seven of those came against the West Virginia special teams.

“We have to go back to the basics, go back to the fundamentals, correct what we did wrong,” noted West Virginia cornerback Charles Woods. “We have to watch the film, identify our mistakes and just correct them. We know we can’t make self-wounded mistakes.”

Woods didn’t shy away from faulting himself, either, as he had a potential interception go through his hands.

“There’s no excuse; I should have made that catch,” admitted the Illinois State transfer.

Standing with a 4-6 record, WVU needs wins in each of its final two regular-season games – Texas at home on Nov. 20 and at Kansas on Nov. 27 – to become bowl eligible.

“We have to focus on what is ahead of us,” explained senior safety Alonzo Addae. “Obviously, it is frustrating what happened today. I’m not frustrated with the guys, though, because we’re bonded together. We’ll figure out what we have to do better. We have to figure out what we have to do to get a different outcome on Saturdays.”

“We know we can be better,” echoed Woods. “We know these self-inflicted wounds are hurting us. As a team, we have to move on. We have to prepare for next week and prepare of Texas.”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A sign hung in the Mountaineer locker room throughout the offseason that said simply, “42-6.”

That sign served as a constant reminder of the beatdown Iowa State put on West Virginia in the 2020 regular-season finale.

It served as a motivating factor for not just the ’21 rematch against the Cyclones but also for the entire season to come.

The 2021 campaign started slow for WVU, as it was 2-4 at the midway point, but things started to turn around with a 29-17 win at TCU last week. Then this Saturday, West Virginia’s offseason motivation strode into Mountaineer Field with a No. 22 ranking.

“Honestly, that was the motivation for our entire offseason,” said WVU linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo. “That same team out there embarrassed us last year. We had some ongoing problems last year because of COVID and things like that, but the product we put on the field was embarrassing. So, they motivated us and the entire program.”

West Virginia got its revenge Saturday, pulling out a hard-fought, 38-31 victory over the Cyclones. It is the second win for WVU this season over a ranked opponent, having defeated then-No. 15 Virginia Tech, 27-21, earlier in the year.

The Mountaineer defense needed to make two fourth-quarter redzone stands to hold on to the victory over ISU.

“We put in a lot of work this week,” explained Chandler-Semedo. “As I said earlier, that team embarrassed us last year. We had a little extra mojo because of that. We worked on everything to get ready. We were prepared to play a four-quarter game, even longer than that if necessary. Whatever it took.”

West Virginia’s defense got huge stops at the end, and for most of the game, WVU’s offense was also coming up big. Before its trip to Morgantown this weekend, Iowa State had the best scoring defense in the Big 12, limiting opponents to 17.0 points per game.

The Mountaineers hung 38 on ISU, though. It equaled the most points West Virginia had scored in Neal Brown’s three years as head coach against a Big 12 foe, and it was the most the Cyclones had given up since a 42-41 loss at Oklahoma in 2019.

“We had a huge chip on our shoulder coming into this game,” admitted WVU quarterback Jarret Doege, who completed 30 of his 46 pass attempts Saturday for a career-high 370 yards. “We really wanted to make a statement on how good a team we are. When we do our job and do the things we’re coached to do, we can be a really good football team.”

Wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton accounted for six receptions and 106 of those passing yards Saturday. He also had two highlight-reel touchdown catches.

Ford-Wheaton was unable to make the trip to Ames last year because of COVID. While he wasn’t on the field for the 36-point blowout loss, he said the loss still hurt, even though he was 860 miles away.

“I felt helpless watching us get beat like that from home,” remembered Ford-Wheaton. “Everybody took that personally, and we had a chip on our shoulder the whole week — really, the whole year. We knew we had to go get one back against them. It was a big point of emphasis. We had to get physical, defense and offense, and we did that.”

Another Mountaineer who took last year’s loss personally was running back Leddie Brown. Brown was limited to 65 rushing yards on 20 carries at Jack Trice Stadium last season, but he powered his way to 109 yards on the ground in 22 attempts in this year’s revenge match.

“We knew coming into this that it was going to be a four-quarter game, and we had to fight through all four quarters. We did that. We didn’t fold under pressure,” said Brown, who has 2,465 career rushing yards, placing him ninth in WVU history.

And now the “42-6” sign can come down.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — If West Virginia accomplished anything on Saturday against Virginia Tech, it was to take strides forward with the physical play from what had been an offensive line that was feeling its way through the first two games.

That had been emphasized all week and the week before after Maryland had pushed them around in the opener. In the game against LIU you couldn't tell much, being a 66-0 blowout of an inferior team. Some wondered if they had grown any better.

"You have to be careful about always tying things to results," offensive coordinator Gerad Parker warned.. "I think the truth lies in the work So, it probably wasn't where we wanted the first two week, we'd been practicing in a way to change to what we wanted to be, to be physical.

"Our best two practices during the week were Tuesday and Wednesday. Our most physical practices are Tuesday and Wednesday. Is popping that 80-yard run by Leddie Brown on the second play of the game a result of that work? You don't know, but it gives us the best chance

"So those stats, some would say, 'Well, if that run doesn't happen, you don't have those yards.' I love that in sports. The thing is, we did pop it. It did happen and it got the game going for us."

They took it all the way to the finish, but know they can't be satisfied with Oklahoma up next on Saturday.

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If defensive back Jackie Matthews' break up of a fourth-down pass in the closing seconds of Saturday's victory over Virginia Tech was the biggest defensive play of the game for West Virginia, the second biggest defensive play may have been made by an offensive player.

Wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton may be known for catching passes, but he also proved himself pretty good at catching an opponent trying to steal a victory from WVU.

The Mountaineers were in the process of trying to run out the clock over the final three minutes of the game with a six-point lead when Tech's Jermaine Waller intercepted a Jarret Doege screen pass and was rambling down the sideline with what could have been a game-changing touchdown.

Ford-Wheaton saved the day with a big hit on the sideline, which set the scene for Matthews' play.

"In our program it's about straining all the time," Ford-Wheaton said. "Coach Brown really emphasizes that, so I didn't want to be that guy who was loafing on the field and possibly give up a game-winning touchdown.

"On the other hand, I did play defense in high school so I looked at it as a free opportunity to get a free hit in," he continued. "I was excited for the opportunity."

He took advantage of the opportunity, too, with a nasty hit.

"I'm 220, so ... I was running full speed; he didn't see me ... I just did what I had to do."

Did he know he was the last line of defense?

"I didn't really think about it," Ford-Wheaton said. "I didn't scan the field but heard the crowd, like you hear the momentum change and stuff, so I was looking for the ball. He was coming directly toward me and his head was on a swivel."

It probably kept spinning for a while after the play.

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How important was Leddie Brown's 80-yard touchdown dash early in Saturday's victory over Virginia Tech?

The players believe it was crucial, not necessarily for the points that were created but the atmosphere that a victory starved full house crowd could bring, especially since many players had never had the chance to play in Mountaineer Field when it was alive.

"With the crowd, it was great," said senior safety Alonzo Addae. "It gets them excited very early and gets some momentum up. Then it's up to us to keep it up."

Addae is Canadian who played previously at New Hampshire and who last year performed before near empty houses due to the Covid pandemic.

"The biggest game I've played in here. Crazy atmosphere. I stayed after the game and talked to some of the fans. I saw the love the people in this town bring. I've never been part of anything like that," he admitted.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — Bryce Ford-Wheaton has taken charge of West Virginia University's receiver's room but, more important, he has taken charge of himself as he is expected to blossom into one of the top receivers in the Big 12 this season.

And just who expects him to do that.

First his coach, Neal Brown, who quite simply proclaimed as WVU went through camp heading toward next Saturday's 3:30 p.m. season-opening game at Maryland, shown on ESPN:

"I think it's time and I think he would tell you the same thing," Brown said as spring practice came to an end. "I think he's ready to take that next step. I think he can be one of the better receivers in our league. I really do believe that."

And he is in complete agreement, partly simply from seeing his own growth as he went from 12 catches for 201 yards with a pair of touchdowns his first season and then raised that level to 27 catches for 416 yards and three touchdowns last year.

From the moment last season ended, he completely dedicated himself, as did the team's other receivers, toward reaching their full potential, something they knew they had not reached a year ago.

"We knew what we did last year and we knew it wasn't good enough," he said. "The standard at West Virginia is just higher than that. I played with David Sills and the guys who came before that. We hold ourselves to that standard."

A year ago the receivers were suffering growing pains, especially in catching the football. Drops were more frequent than touchdowns and that's a bad recipe for success.

With Ford-Wheaton in a key leadership role, they approached the off-season dedicated to correct that problem.

"Having gone a whole year with [quarterback Jarret] Doege, we have chemistry now. We have a lot of reps under our belt. We talk a lot on the field and off the field. It's like some high-level thinking and small adjustments. We are just more on the same page a lot more now.

"The work we did in the summer time correlates with concentration now. We don't leave the ball behind. We looking at the ball all the way to the top now. That's something we didn't so last year. We improved on that. We're doing it naturally now."

A year ago, for many of them, they thought they were just dipping their toes in the water of college football receiving but learned they had gotten in over their heads.

Now they plan to come up for air.

"All of us in the receiver room were just getting our feet wet. Now we're ready to take the next step," he said. "I'm confident because of the work we put in. I think we worked harder than anybody. My coach told you we caught 110,000 balls this season as a group. We trust in the work."

You read that right, by the way. In live practice and working with a new robotic machine which tirelessly throws pass after pass on the money, they, as a group, caught 110,000 balls.

"We've been wearing it out. We love that thing. Every day after practice we'll all catch 50 balls, tracking them over our head. It's an important catch for us," Ford-Wheaton said.

And while Ford-Wheaton may possess the right leadership skills, he doesn't see at his him leading a room of followers among receivers.

"It's not like we have one specific leader. We have multiple leaders," Ford-Wheaton aid. "A lot of the younger guys gravitate towards people who are in the same position or they can see themselves developing into," Ford-Wheaton stressed. "We have a really high stand right now in the room for leadership -- we don't really let anybody in our room slack.

"There's a certain standard you have to meet every week and we push each other to make that every week."

He, of course, saw leadership up close and personal when he first came in with Will Grier at quarterback and David Sills V and Gary Jennings the starting receivers.

"When I first came in, I saw guys like David Sills and Gary Jennings and they were so much older than me and they were eating healthy, and I would be like 'Ewww, why are y'all eating that?' and they would always tell me, 'One day you're going to understand why' and I finally do understand why.

"It's part of being an elite athlete, and if you really want to reach the next level and use your full potential while you can, then you really have to focus on everything because everything really does matter. So, hopefully, the younger guys right ow will see me eating well and then they can tell you the same story in about two or three years."

Ford-Wheaton spent the off-season hit the weight room hard changing his body under strength coach Mike Joseph while completing changing his diet.

"I really cut out all fast food, fried food," he said. "I've been trying to eat more chicken and fish than anything like red meat or beef or anything like that. The first few weeks were very hard, but now it's kind of a habit to eat healthy."

In truth, what he was doing, was practicing discipline, the kind you need to become the star player he aspires to be and, at the same time, be an example for his teammates to draw the best out of them in all areas.

"Talent-wise, we're there. Everyone in the room has the potential to make big-time plays," Ford-Wheaton said, thinking of Winston Wright Jr., Sam James, Sam Brown, Sean Ryan, Isaiah Esdale, Graeson Malashevich, Reese Smith and Kaden Prather, all of whom figure to play roles in the offense.

And if you are looking for a new face to expect big things of, Ford-Wheaton guides you in the direction of Prather, a true freshman who will be making his debut in his home state of Maryland.

"Kaden Prather is playing at a high level," Ford-Wheaton said. "They gave me the job of kind of mentoring him when he came in during January. He's done everything I've told him to do. My coach is hard on me about mentoring him, so he knows there can't be a drop-off when someone comes out of the game. He has embraced that role."

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — A week or so ago, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown inequivalently stated that he planned to run this year’s offense through running back Leddie Brown.

He meant what he said, for Leddie Brown will be a busy young man this fall, but the fact of the matter is that the Mountaineers are no different than any other team in college football — save for Army and Navy — in that the person holding the key to the offense is the quarterback.

In WVU’s case, that is Jarret Doege.

This is the Bowling Green transfer entering his final season, a kid who has fought the odds since he was a child, always being compared to his older brother Seth Doege, who was a record-setting quarterback at pass-happy Texas Tech back in the day.

When he graduated high school in Lubbock, offers did not come his way but he fought through it, wound up at BG, then, when given a chance to quarterback in the big time, jumped to WVU where he got to run Neal Brown’s offense.

He did it well, not great, and comes into this season off a disastrous Liberty Bowl performance against Army in which he was yanked at the half and watch Austin Kendall, his backup who had not played a down since the first game of the year, rescue the Mountaineers with a second-half rally.

This lit a fire under him for the off-season, which he approached with the work ethic of a Jerry West, Kobe Bryant or Steph Curry, addressing all the deficiencies that were holding him back such as movement in the pocket, throwing the deep ball, the shape he was in.

Early on in camp Neal Brown noted the conditioning aspect that is expected to help him reach his full potential.

“Jarret has changed his body,” Brown said. “He’s close to the same weight, but the makeup is totally different. He’s down under 10% body fat, which is a huge improvement for him.”

He had been around 20%. If that lowered the stock in Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, it raised his stock with the coaching staff and his teammates, and he’s hoping with NFL scouts.

But it is in throwing the ball, especially deep, where the biggest improvement has come.

“His accuracy has improved a lot,” said wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton, who figures to be his top target this season. “We worked a lot in the summer. Whether we wanted to or not, he would always jack us out there, It was always ‘C’mon, run 10 routes for us.’ It like a little quarterback school every day after workouts. It’s a lot of timing and I think we got it down now.”

This is a big difference from the previous year, when the COVID-19 pandemic did away with much of the summer work together between quarterback and receivers.

“I got to throw to receivers whenever I wanted,” Doege explained. “Last year we were split up. Maybe I’d get to throw to these two receivers one, then two others the next. I never really could make that full connection with all of them and throw to all of them at the same whenever I wanted.”

Whatever he has done, it has worked and everyone has been extolling his accuracy and improved velocity, giving him the ability to put the ball into small windows to get completions.

“I don’t know what he’s been doing,” Ford-Wheaton said. “It kind of surprised me, too. He’s squeezing the ball into tight windows and threading the needle. Downfield he’s throwing the ball where it can be played. He’s really putting the ball where we can make plays. That’s all we can ask for as a receiver.”

“I feel like the timing is perfect,” junior Winston Wright Jr., Doege’s prime deep threat, said. “Me and hi, I know we spent a lot of time getting extra work in, our time in. I feel like it’s paying off.”

Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker explained what he is seeing now after a summer camp practice.

“He threw it clean and it’s coming out on time for the most part,” Parker said. “We connected downfield on some stuff that was encouraging on some concepts that we really wanted to improve on. He’s worked on his game physically and mentally. He’s owned himself and become a leader. I think he has made great strides; we really do as a staff as well.”

Neal Brown believes Doege is at the point physically and mentally to take some risks as a quarterback. Last year he didn’t have such confidence, which explains a lack of completions on deep balls and just four interceptions, for Doege wasn’t trusting his ability to make the close plays.

“I feel I’m just going through my reads and making good decisions,” Doege said. “Sometimes you can be more aggressive. That’s what I’ve worked on over the summer, being more aggressive and taking more shots down the field while keeping in mind not turning the ball over.”

While all this was going on, Doege also was working on his mobility in the pocket. Pat White he isn’t, but he feels he’s learned how to avoid the rush and get the ball off to make something out of nothing.

“When I get through my reads and nothing’s there, I try not to force it, just get what I can and get down. Maybe it’s not 60 yards and a touchdown. Maybe five yards or a no-gainer. That will work for me,” he said.