The Search for a Second Football Family is What Led Jarret Doege to West Virginia
With 22 seconds left in the third quarter against Texas Tech last Saturday, junior quarterback Jarret Doege walked onto Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium for the first time as a player this season.
In just over a quarter of time in his WVU debut, Doege completed 11 of 17 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown. Doege transferred to West Virginia last May after playing for two seasons at Bowling Green State University. His transfer went a little under the radar, as former Oklahoma quarterback Austin Kendall had also come to the Mountain State back in January.
When Kendall won the starting quarterback job prior to the season, first-year head coach Neal Brown announced right away that the plan for Doege was to have him redshirt this season and preserve two years of eligibility. Under the redshirt rules, Doege is permitted to play in four games this season. With Texas Tech being the fourth-to-last game on the schedule for the now 3-6 Mountaineers, Doege will finally have an opportunity to play.
Doege’s path to West Virginia is not as clean-cut as those of some other transfer players’. Kendall, for instance, came to WVU for the opportunity to play after having sat behind Heisman-winning quarterbacks for three seasons as a Sooner. Doege came to WVU for a few reasons, playing at the highest level of college football is one, finding a second football family is the other.
A LONE STAR START
The Doege’s are a football family from the state where football is more popular than anything else, Texas. Jarret spent his entire life surrounded by the game. His father, Randy coached high school football for 30 years and his brother, Seth played quarterback at their home town school, Texas Tech.
Seth was a good quarterback for the Red Raiders from 2009-12. Starting as a junior and senior, Seth passed for 8,636 yards and 69 touchdowns in his career. Living in Lubbock, Texas, home of the Red Raiders, Jarret was able to watch and learn from his brother up close.
“When I was playing at Tech, Jarret would come up to practices all the time,” Seth remembers. “He would kind of get an idea of what we were calling.”
Jarret often went to football camps at Tech when he was young and routinely catch the eyes of TTU’s coaching staff. Kevin Kilmer, a graduate assistant at Tech at the time, said it was that early exposure to the game helped Jarret stand out from the other kids his age.
“The first one he ever came to, he was in fifth grade,” Kilmer said. “We moved him up there with the older kids, the seventh and eighth graders, pretty quick because he was obviously a lot better than the other fifth graders.
“The thing that stood out the most was him throwing the football. He didn’t have the strongest arm, it wasn’t like he was throwing the ball like 70 yards or anything crazy. His throwing motion is just super, super natural-looking, the ball just flicks off his finger and he threw a really tight spiral, just a very natural thrower of the football, just looked effortless.”
Jarret also caught the eye of Texas Tech’s offensive coordinator at the time, future Mountaineer head coach Neal Brown.
“(Neal Brown) knew who (Jarret) was and they knew and they could see, as a youngster, that he’d probably have a shot at playing,” Seth said.
UNDERVALUED AND OVERLOOKED
Jarret played his final two years of high school football at Lubbock-Cooper High School. Despite a good senior season — he passed for 3,363 yards and 33 touchdowns — and Lubbock-Cooper being a fairly large school and Jarret was not getting a lot of attention from colleges.
Max Kattwinkel, Jarret’s coach for two seasons at Lubbock-Cooper, said everyone was surprised when Jarret was not getting offered.
“It was really pretty surprising,” Kattwinkel said. “I really don’t have a reason for why. He’s a very talented young man, high character, was a leader for us in the locker room, just had all the intangibles.”
Jarret could throw the football with the best of them, but he was mostly seen as a tall, skinny kid that could only stand in the pocket and throw. He also suffered a couple of ankle injuries while in high school.
“He’s just not going to be one of those guys that he’s going to tuck the ball and flash down the field on the run when the pocket breaks down,” Kattwinkel said. “For us, he was a pure drop-back passer and did a great job.”
Seth always knew that his brother could play at the next level though.
“If you want to put him next to anybody when it comes to throwing the football then let’s go, I feel confident that he can throw it with just about anybody, but he’s not going to pass the ‘look test’,” Seth explained. “He’s a tall, skinny kid, doesn’t have these muscles popping out, he’s not super, super athletic.
“There’s a lot of guys that look the part. They’re 6-3, 220 pounds, they can run a 4.5, they can throw it 70 yards in the air, but when the bullets fly, they tighten up and they can’t play. That’s just part of playing quarterback. Him being fearless and him having a ton of heart and being tough, that gives him that opportunity.”
Jarret wanted to play at Texas Tech, his hometown team and the school his brother played at, but it was looking like that was not going to happen when the time for recruiting came around.
“In West Texas, it’s a regional thing. It’s a lot of pride being able to play for your local university,” Kattwinkel said. “We were all a little disappointed that Texas Tech didn’t give him an offer.”
While no Texas Tech offer ever came, the offer Jarret did receive may have been the perfect one for him.
THE PERFECT OFFER
In 2016 Mike Jinks, Kevin Kilmer and Seth Doege went out to dinner one night. All three were part of a new coaching staff that had been hired at Bowling Green State University that year.
Jinks, the new head coach, and Kilmer, the offensive coordinator, looked at Seth and asked, “when are we going to offer your brother?”
“Are y’all serious?” Seth replied.
“Yeah, he’s a dang good player.”
“In my honest opinion,” Seth started, “We’re stupid if we don’t.”
Seth had played a few years as a professional by the time Jarret was a high school senior in 2016, but he was ready to be done and wanted to get into coaching. Seth got hired to be an assistant to Bowling Green, but had not brought Jarret up as a potential recruit for the Falcons because he did not want to seem like the biased older brother. Fortunately, Kilmer and Jinks knew all about Jarret.
“We had known about him because he was playing high school football in Lubbock and we knew he didn’t have much going on,” Kilmer said. “I’ve watched this kid since he was in seventh grade and we’re not going to find anybody better than him.
“I think he could have been a power-five quarterback from the get-go. (At the time) I feel bad for Jarret because he probably should be playing for a Big 12 school somewhere, but I’m really glad we got him because we definitely got a steal.”
Bowling Green was the only school that offered Jarret coming out of high school. Not the only Division-I school, the only school. Luckily, Bowling Green ended up being the perfect place for Jarret to go.
Jarret, who had grown up surrounded by football and his family moved 1,200 northeast to Ohio and there he found a second football family.
“The offensive guys that were there were basically family to him,” Seth said.
“We had something very special that you don’t have all the time,” Kilmer said. “What you can’t take for granted is that family atmosphere that we had. We were so tight and really enjoyed being around each other so much every day.”
In that family atmosphere, Jarret thrived. In 2017 Jarret became the first true freshman to start at quarterback for the Falcons since 1982.
“We threw him in there in the middle of the season to try and get a spark going with our guys,” Seth said. “He had been around the system for so long that he just took it quicker than a lot of young quarterbacks do.”
Jarret started five games as a true freshman, throwing for 1,381 yards and 12 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
“It really surprised me that he was able to process that quickly and be that accurate being that young,” Seth said. “It took me two and a half years to be like, ‘hey, I can be the guy here’. It took him a semester.”
As the full-time starter in 2018, Jarret passed for 2,660 yards and 27 touchdowns. While Jarret found success, the team struggled. after starting the season with a 1-6 record, Jinks and much of the Bowling Green coaching staff was let go. After losing that second family, Jarret knew it was time for a change.
“When we all got let go it just wasn’t the same feel for him,” Seth said. “At that point, he said, ‘If I’m going to leave I need to do it now. And if I leave I want to try and find the highest place to play’.”
“That hurt his heart,” Seth and Jarret’s father, Randy Doege, said. “We’re very appreciative of Bowling Green, they offered him a Division-I scholarship so you’ve got to feel good about that place. But at the same time when you lose all those guys that he’s known for 10, 12 years, it changes how you feel.”
Jarret entered the transfer portal on May 8, 2019, and it did not take him long to find a new home.
TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS
Neal Brown had kept in touch with Seth even after they were both gone from Texas Tech and he had been keeping an eye on his younger brother the whole time. When Jarret entered the transfer portal, Brown’s first call was to Seth.
“He said ‘hey, what’s he looking for?’,” Seth said. “I said ‘he wants to play at the highest level, he wants to play for someone he trusts and someone he likes, he wants that shot, he’s kind of been overlooked his whole life’. (Brown) said, ‘well, we may have an opportunity here’.”
Brown announced Doege’s transfer to West Virginia on May 16, only eight days after Jarret put his name into the portal. Other than already being familiar with him, Jarret had a head start on the offensive system Brown runs as well.
“He kind of had a feel for what Neal does before he even got there,” Seth said. “That was what kind of sold him on going to West Virginia. Obviously, there’s tweaks because Neal’s changed it over the years, but I think there was some similarity there that he felt comfortable with.”
“I know coach Brown has changed some stuff, but when you get down to the basics of the passing game, I still see a lot of the same passing concepts that we ran at Bowling Green,” Kilmer said. “Jarret ran a lot of the same passing concepts in high school too.”
Seth is now the quarterback coach at USC and even though he no longer coaches Jarret directly, he still helps his brother out.
“He sent me all his throws (against Texas Tech),” Seth said. “I give him a little bit of advice because Neal’s teaching him very similar and so I can still coach him the way Neal’s coaching him…I think he’s a great teammate too, he’s not going to be a distraction. He’s going to go out there and compete every chance he gets, he wants to play but at the end of the day he wants West Virginia to win and that’s really all he cares about.”
A FOOTBALL FAMILY
Randy Doege thinks coaching football is the greatest job in the world. He had the opportunity to do it for 30 years, but he is taking a break from it right now.
“I will coach one more time before I hang my whistle up for good, but it will not be until after Jarret graduates,” Randy said. “I consider it the best profession in the world and I miss it terribly, but at the same time, my honor and my focus are to my children.”
Randy said he and his wife, Melinda, have never missed a game where either Seth or Jarret played.
“Every time (Jarret) starts, we don’t miss a game,” Randy said. “We made the concession for me to get out of coaching so we could watch the kids play and I told them if they made it I wouldn’t miss a game and their mom wouldn’t miss a game and we intend to honor that.”
Despite being life-long Texas Tech fans, Randy and his wife, Melinda, are all-in on Jarret being a Mountaineer.
“We are Red Raiders, but make no misunderstanding right now we’re the biggest West Virginia and the biggest USC fans in the nation,” Randy said. “It cost me $200 yesterday to buy my wife a new blue coat.”
They knew Jarret was going to play Saturday and so the Doege’s made the trip up to Morgantown to watch him.
“Absolutely love the atmosphere,” Randy said. “I was so impressed last week because you’re not going to go to a team that’s 3-5’s game a lot of times and still see 59,000 people there and have a poor game, down 35-10 at half, and those people are still there.”
The opportunity to watch both of his sons play at the highest level of college football is not something Randy is taking lightly.
“You talk about a dream when you watch them develop and grow from boys into men,” Randy said. ”
“We’re so blessed, how many families get to watch two boys be Division-I quarterbacks. That’s a testimony to their work and their desire to play at that level.”
“I’m just glad everything’s working out for him,” Seth said. “I know he works really hard.”