Since Dana Holgorsen took West Virginia’s head coaching job, the Mountaineers have earned a reputation as a pass-first team. And in 2018, they could have more aerial talent than ever.
Quarterback Will Grier leads a passing offense that looks set to light up the Big 12. But behind Grier, West Virginia also has some talented options. An injury to Grier torpedoed West Virginia’s season in 2017, but an injury likely wouldn’t prove as deadly a blow in 2018.
Here’s a look at what could be West Virginia’s most talented quarterback unit in decades:
In recent weeks, the buzz has picked up around Will Grier being one of the top quarterbacks in college football. Many have listed him as one of the presumed top picks in the 2019 draft. We don’t know yet if Grier will live up to the hype in 2018, but he already has the Big 12 on notice.
Grier threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns in only 10 full games in 2017. At that rate, he has the chance to become West Virginia’s third-leading passer of all-time in 2018, after just two years in the Mountaineers’ program. Grier has an arm like few West Virginia quarterbacks ever have had, and he brings a vertical element to the passing game that can break the game open.
Grier suffered a gruesome finger injury against Texas that ended his season in 2017, but he jumped back into things this spring as if he hadn’t missed a day. This year, his focus is on third-down efficiency and finishing drives, something that often has been an issue for West Virginia.
So perhaps you’ll see a Will Grier who doesn’t take quite so many chances in 2018. But when he lets it fly, there are few better.
Grier has energized West Virginia’s fan base like few players have in the past. Geno Smith was the last West Virginia quarterback this electrifying, and his senior year came with massive hype.
Smith put up big numbers, but the Mountaineers stumbled to a 7-6 record in 2012. Grier has had similar hype around him ever since the day he stepped onto campus, and he arguably has a much better all-around team.
If a West Virginia team ever could crash the Big 12 party, it might be this one. And it’s because of Grier. He’s the key to West Virginia achieving its potential in 2018.
Last year, Grier’s broken finger was the death blow to West Virginia’s season. Backup Chris Chugunov represented an enormous drop-off in talent, and the Mountaineers went winless after Grier went down.
Chugunov and third-stringer David Isreal transferred after the season. In their place are two backups with much higher ceilings. The quarterback battle between Jack Allison and Trey Lowe could be a good one in 2019, but for now, they’ll be waiting for their shot behind Grier.
Allison, the presumed No. 2, is another talented transfer. A former 4-star Miami recruit, Allison redshirted in 2016 but left after Mark Richt took over, fearing that Miami would move away from pro-style quarterbacks. Allison will be eligible in 2018 with three years to play, and he looks to be Grier’s heir apparent.
West Virginia hasn’t often recruited top quarterbacks, and Allison’s arrival was a coup. Allison is a cannon-armed, 6-foot-5 pocket passer who brings much of the same downfield ability as Grier but is much bigger. Allison impressed on the scout team last season, and his understanding of the offense has come along well.
However, Allison hasn’t convincingly beaten out Lowe, a freshman, for the backup spot. The pair split second-team reps throughout spring camp, and Lowe impressed throughout the process. A 3-star recruit from Tennessee, Lowe has a different kind of athleticism than that of Allison, possessing the ability to run and extend plays.
Allison has a year head start on Lowe in learning the offense, but offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said that Lowe improved by “light years” during spring ball. The race between Allison and Lowe for the No. 2 spot may not be solved until the fall, but both options are much more talented than the players West Virginia had last season.