If WVU’s sports information department ever wishes to start a Heisman Trophy campaign, this might be a good time to do so.
The Mountaineer football team is ranked No. 23 in both the Associated Press and Amway coaches polls. And they happen to be led by a quarterback nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus” with stats that demand immediate attention.
Will Grier, so nicknamed because of his looks, is currently tied for first nationally in passing touchdowns (21) with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett – yet in one fewer game.
In passing yards per game, Grier, the transfer from Florida, is No. 6 nationally, averaging 348.7 yards. He’s No. 5 in points responsible for with 140. In total offense, the junior is No. 4, averaging 366. And in passing efficiency, Grier is No. 8 at 167.8.
One of Grier’s main targets, David Sills, also has a No. 1 ranking in receiving touchdowns (12). But during Monday’s Big 12 teleconference call it was Grier that received the bulk of the attention.
“I don’t know if I’ve been around a guy that’s as accurate,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “We chart drops; we chart bad throws; we chart bad decisions. He just doesn’t have many of them. He doesn’t have many bad throws. He doesn’t have many bad decisions.”
This coming Saturday, Grier will lead WVU to Waco, Texas, to meet winless Baylor for an 8 p.m. ET game.
“He’s a very, very, very intelligent guy,” Holgorsen said. “He may rush some throws. He may throw some incompletions. You ask him why, though, and he always has answers. Most of his incompletions are the result of either dropped passes or poor protection to the point where he has to get the ball out of his hands so he doesn’t get sacked.
“He does a good job of not taking negative plays, but is just as accurate as can be. I don’t know if I’ve been around one that’s been more accurate.”
That’s saying a lot considering Holgorsen has coached QBs like Graham Harrell, Case Keenum, Geno Smith and Brandon Weeden. Grier, however, might have the finest pedigree. He was once named the Parade National Player of the Year and was a 2014 U.S. Army All-America Bowl selection. Playing for his father Chad at Davidson Day School in North Carolina, Grier once set a national record for single-game passing by throwing for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns against Harrells Christian in a playoff game.
“I keep going back to the coach’s kid aspect,” Holgorsen said. “He was trained the right way and played a lot of football for his dad in Charlotte. The intelligence, the football IQ, is incredibly high. His accuracy is the one thing that – game after game after game – stands out to me.
“He does a great job in the pocket of avoiding bad situations and getting rid of the ball. His toughness, knowledge and arm strength are all things we’ve been following closely. But that ball is right where it needs to be 90 percent of the time. That’s one of the main things you look for in a quarterback and he most definitely has it.”
In WVU’s 46-35 comeback victory over Texas Tech, Grier was sacked four times for 32 lost yards. Yet, on Monday, Red Raiders’ coach Kliff Kingsbury, like Holgorsen, still praised Grier’s ability to move.
“His mobility is really impressive,” Kingsbury said. “He can keep things alive. He hung in there and made some deep in-cut throws with guys barreling down on him. He made some great fade throws under duress. He kept coming. He didn’t get rattled. He was down the whole game. He was hit a bunch, sacked a bunch, but kept standing in there and making really nice throws. Just watching him through the first five games, he’s gotten better each week. You can tell he’s a big-time player.”
Baylor coach Matt Rhule even joined the party. His team is coming off Big 12 losses to Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. And the former Temple coach was asked his early impressions of the league.
“I think after playing three games and three really good teams, I’d say I’m significantly impressed with the quarterbacks,” Rhule said. “We’ve seen three really great ones in Baker [Mayfield], [Jesse] Ertz and, this past week, Mason Rudolph, who was unbelievable.
“And I think when you watch West Virginia’s offense, it’s as good as any of the others. It’s unbelievable what they’ve been doing. Will is a triple threat. He can do it with his arm. He can do it with his feet. You can see he makes great decisions. He’s a heady quarterback. He certainly doesn’t disappoint.”