Morgantown, WV – Mountaineer fans got accustomed to seeing Will Grier and David Sills light up secondaries on Saturday’s the last two years. Add Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms and sprinkle in some Trevon Wesco with the plethora of running backs under Dana Holgorsen’s Air Raid attack and you had an offense lighting up scoreboards. Aside from Dana, they’ve all moved on to the next level and a new era has begun.
When Neal Brown took the helm, he was in immediate need of some quarterbacks. There were only two QB’s on the roster and neither had much game experience. Jack Allison started the Champs Sports Bowl at the conclusion of the 2018 season, while Trey Lowe was used more on gadget plays.
It was obvious there needed to be depth and Brown found just that in Austin Kendall via the transfer portal. Kendall opted to leave Oklahoma after Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley brought in Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts.
Kendall didn’t get a lot of game experience, but it was well documented that he pushed 2018 Heisman winner Kyler Murray for the starting job just days before the season opener. The immediate assumption was Kendall would be West Virginia’s starting quarterback.
Then, the Gold and Blue spring game came and well, the quarterbacks looked far from spectacular. Nervousness started to surround the fan base. However, there was a reason why it looked a bit rough.
“Coach Brown makes it hard on us so its easier in the long run… It’s obviously progressed and has been a lot easier since spring,” stated Kendall.
Neal Brown runs tough practices. Not the old school of thought where they are physically demanding but it’s putting players in tough situations at all times, so they’re prepared for the challenges of the season.
“Coach Brown is definitely hard on me and the other quarterbacks as well,” continued Austin. “You got to take that as coaching and just know that he’s doing that for your best interest.”
Neal received another transfer over the summer in Jarret Doege and he brought the most experience to the quarterback room. Doege still had to be cleared by the NCAA but speculation swirled on who would become the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers.
Fall camp started and it was evident from the outset that the team had improved and most notably the quarterbacks.
Brown hadn’t named a starter and made it clear that the competition was still open and later revealed he was waiting till after the second scrimmage to make his decision.
After reviewing the film, the coaches had made their decision and Brown announced that Austin was indeed his starting quarterback.
“I just knew if I go out there and put my best foot forward every day, even if I had a bad day just forget about it and not live in the past and keep moving forward and keep progressing every day,” stated Kendall.
Austin may have known he’d be starting under center but knew it wasn’t going to be handed to him.
“I always knew there was a competition and you have to work for it and there’s nothing given to you,” said Kendall. “I’ve worked for everything I’ve gotten, so I’m really excited for it.”
Kendall did have one career start at Oklahoma. It came in late September of last year against Baylor after Kyler Murray violated team rules. The Sooners had to punt at midfield, but the Bears muffed the punt at the two-yard line and Riley felt his star QB had served his punishment and sent in Murray to score the touchdown.
Although this is technically not his first start, this will be the first time he’s named the starter going into the season.
“I’ve played in some games but haven’t really played in a lot of games,” said Kendall. “I’m just excited to get on the field. All my family is going to be there, that’s a first for me. I’m just excited for it.”
The team voted Kendall for a leadership role. He’s not as vocal off the field but on the field, he knows how to be a leader.
“When I’m on the field, I talk to the guys – I pump everybody up,” stated Kendall. “I’m just trying to be the leader everybody needs. I’m always in people’s ears, saying, ‘let’s go! Let’s go!’ Even when their down, they drop a pass or miss a block, I’m saying, ‘alright let’s go. Let’s go. Get the next one. Get the next one.’ I’ll even talk to myself too. If I make a bad pass, I’m just always telling myself, inside, ‘let’s go next play.’ Next play mentality.”
The Mountaineers have talked about the changes, the new faces and what’s in store for the season. Now, they’re just ready to show they belong.
“I feel like it’s a whole new team, especially me,” stated Kendall. “I mean, everybody has something to prove. We as a team, we’re ready to show that this Saturday.”
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