MORGANTOWN — It took some time, but Neal Brown has settled on a starting quarterback at West Virginia University.
Brown announced Tuesday that Austin Kendall, a graduate transfer from Big 12 rival Oklahoma who arrived in Morgantown in January, will be the WVU starting quarterback for the Aug. 31 season opener against visiting James Madison.
Kendall beat out redshirt junior Jack Allison, redshirt freshman Trey Lowe and Jarret Doege, a Bowling Green transfer who was ruled eligible for the 2019 season late last week, for the job. Brown said the choice to go with Kendall came down to a number of things, but mostly it was about numbers and how well Kendall tracked from the start of spring practice through the present.
“We tracked everything from spring practice through fall camp — decision making, completion percentage, number of turnovers, scoring drives — and that’s at every spring practice all the way through fall camp,” Brown said. “It was clear after Friday night’s scrimmage at the stadium that he earned it. Jack Allison did a good job. I believe in him, and I think that’s important for everybody to know. Trey Lowe is a guy who has prepared well and continues to improve and could potentially see some game action. Jarret Doege, his waiver was approved on Friday. That doesn’t really change our plan for him. The plan for him, as of today, is to redshirt. He’s coming off offseason surgery, he’s been a little behind and I think that’s the right decision for him.”
While at Oklahoma, Kendall served as the backup to Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, and also Kyler Murray, the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals. Kendall was poised to compete for the Sooners’ starting quarterback job gain in 2019 after battling, but ultimately falling behind, Murray last summer. That all changed when Jalen Hurts, who had been a starter at Alabama and helped lead the Crimson Tide to both a national championship and runner-up trophy during his time in Tuscaloosa, made the decision to transfer to Oklahoma.
Hurts, who was recently named OU’s starter, was welcomed in Norman with open arms. The writing was on the wall, and Kendall didn’t want to sit on the bench for another season at Oklahoma. After some initial pushback from OU, he was allowed to leave Norman for West Virginia.
Kendall took the bulk of the first-team snaps during the spring but could not separate himself from the pack of WVU quarterbacks. That was the case again to start preseason camp, but Brown said as the days and weeks wore on, it became clear Kendall was the guy for the Mountaineers.
“He just hasn’t played a lot of football,” Brown said. “Of all the quarterbacks, Doege has the most experience being a two-year starter at Bowling Green. These guys just haven’t played a lot, so they need reps. We’ve purposefully designed our practice so quarterbacks can get a lot of reps.
“Austin just hasn’t had the opportunity to do that. Now, there are a lot of positives of the situation in Oklahoma — being around winning and seeing really highly productive offenses play — but he really hasn’t got a lot of live reps. At quarterback, it’s harder to simulate in non-live segments. It’s easier at receiver or DB. It’s hard for a quarterback. You need some bullets flying at you. The more reps he’s gotten, he has improved.”
With a starter named at quarterback, Brown was asked how far along he and his staff are with determining the rest of the West Virginia depth chart.
Brown said they are close, but not quite there yet. Wednesday will be a big day in regard to settling the West Virginia two-deep depth chart.
“Tomorrow will be a big evaluation day,” Brown said Tuesday. “A lot of those ‘2’ spots on the depth chart are determined by special teams. If you’ve got a chance to be a factor on special teams, you’re going to be more likely to travel and do those types of things than the guy who is not playing special teams. So we want to get our final look at some full-speed action on special teams today and I think after tomorrow we’ll have a good understanding.
“It’s time to figure out who we’re going to play and let them know so we can start getting our game plans in check.”