West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has gotten himself into somewhat of a pickle to begin the 2021 season.
The excitement of watching redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Greene run all over Long Island University’s FCS defense was certainly a quarterback treat unlike anything Mountaineer fans have experienced since Will Grier. Greene, in all of his 5-foot-10, 190-pound glory, raced around the Sharks defenders and scored two touchdowns on the ground in the midst of a 66-0 rout Saturday.
Perhaps it wasn’t just Greene’s rushing prowess, 97 yards and two scores on 14 carries, that led to new levels of excitement but the possibility of what could be? After all, what is the excitement of recruiting if not the promise that comes with youth and potential? Oftentimes, the thrill of landing a top recruit comes with the notion of what could be and not what will be. Is Greene really any different?
We’ve seen Greene very sparingly so far in his WVU career, in clean-up duty against Eastern Kentucky and Iowa State last season, so he’s truthfully an unknown. Even against Long Island, we didn’t truly learn much. Aside from his electric rushing ability, he threw just seven passes — completing four for 57 yards — in WVU’s rout of LIU.
With a defense that, with no disrespect, could not offer virtually any resistance against the WVU offense all game long and without the need to make contested throws into tight windows in high-pressure situations, we don’t really know what Greene is. We do, however, know what Doege is.
Doege is a safe choice who likely won’t lose you many games (although, if you look at Maryland…), but he won’t win you many either. He’s the quarterback who can best run the current WVU offense, hitting the slants, crossing routes and intermediate throws needed to move an offense to minimal gains, but he isn’t someone who is going to hit on deep throws — and his 12 yard rush against LIU was the longest run of his career.
For context, Greene’s 34 rush yards on the first drive of the game was the most prolific rushing performance by a WVU quarterback since Grier in 2017. His overall rushing performance flashed potential not seen since Skyler Howard in the mid-2010s.
While Greene’s rushing potential is exciting and could possibly help alleviate the pressure of an offensive line that is taking some time to gel, the timing has to be right. Even if Brown hadn’t made it abundantly clear that Doege is “The Guy” heading forward, do you really want to throw Greene into the fire against a Virginia Tech defense that lit Heisman-contender North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell up to the tune of six sacks and three interceptions?
With a contest against Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma the following week, while the defensive matchup may be a bit better, that’s an enormous stage for a first career start in primetime on ABC. The schedule, with Brown’s most important game at the helm of the program only days away, doesn’t allow for a redshirt freshman to feel his way through a game.
For better or worse, Doege is still the Mountaineers’ best chance for survival against the Hokies. And if Doege drops the ball against them, the door is opened even further for Greene against Oklahoma. Another egg in that game, and it’s fair to wonder, at 1-3, if Greene shouldn’t get a start against Texas Tech on Oct. 2.
Doege will be given every chance to retain his starting spot over the next two weeks, but for a quarterback that hasn’t really shown up for big, signature games in his WVU career, is there a whole lot of hope that the upcoming two week stretch will be much different?
If Brown feels like his best chance of winning is by playing Doege, he’ll play Doege. That’s his current thought process, but if WVU is 1-3 coming off two poor performances in big games, is the point of the season to salvage a .500 season or see if Green is a quarterback who can actually lead the Mountaineers to success in the future? What if Greene can do both?
Doege doesn’t necessarily need to win against Virginia Tech and Oklahoma to silence the doubter. A strong performance in which WVU battles and shows marked improvement on offense would go a long way, even with a 1-3 start to the season. It’s a tough ask, but it’s what Doege must do if he wishes to keep his starting his spot this year.
How much longer can WVU fans continue to trust the climb if the Mountaineers stumble to another disappointing season with Doege at the helm?