MORGANTOWN - The battle to win the starting quarterback job at West Virginia University is ongoing, but the picture is beginning to become a little more clear after four days of preseason camp for the Mountaineers.
Oklahoma graduate transfer Austin Kendall and redshirt junior Jack Allison have been taking the bulk of the snaps, with redshirt freshman Trey Lowe and Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege also getting some reps. Kendall and Allison seem to be in the best positions to possibly win the job for a few reasons.
Lowe has spent a year with the WVU program, but is still technically a freshman. Doege came to West Virginia with plenty of starting experience from his time at Bowling Green, but has only been able to practice with the Mountaineers four times. Add to that the uncertainty regarding Doege's appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility and you have Kendall, the backup for the last two Heisman Trophy winners during his time at Oklahoma, and Allison, who began his career at Miami before serving as Will Grier's backup last season at WVU, with what appears to be the best shots at being the Mountaineers' starting quarterback.
First-year West Virginia coach Neal Brown said the group of quarterbacks have been good through the first four days of preseason camp, but there is always room for improvement.
"Some highs and some lows," Brown said Monday when asked to evaluate the quarterbacks. "They're getting more reps than they did in the spring just because we've got more bodies. Jack and Austin probably have the best understanding of what we're doing right now. It's a little slower for them. I think that our completion percentages and our decision making are up from the spring, which is a positive. I think Trey Lowe has really came. I think he had his best day [Sunday], I thought he head a really solid day. It's slowing down for him and you've still got to remember that he's a redshirt freshman. Doege has done some positive things - he can throw the football and he's real poised. He's getting accustomed to how we do things because these are his first practices. I'm pleased with where we're at, but we've got a long way to go also."
n Brown did mention the fact that Doege's eligibility for the 2019 season is still to be determined, but added that he likes what the Lubbock, Texas, native brings to the WVU quarterback room.
"He does have more experience than any other quarterback in our room - not from an age standpoint, but from a games played standpoint," Brown said of Doege. "I think the other thing too is they lost some games and had some struggles at Bowling Green. He knows how to overcome adversity. I think that he can probably shake off some bad plays and shake off some hard coaching just a little bit quicker than the others because he's had to go through that. I think it helps in that room. He played in a very similar system in high school and [had] a lot of the same pass concepts at Bowling Green under the previous coaching staff.
"Whether he'll be ready to go or eligible this year is to be determined, but I like where he is at."
n Brown said Sunday's closed practice was the best of the four so far for his West Virginia team, with "high points" coming on for both the offense and the defense. Monday, however, was a different story.
"I thought (Monday's practice) was unfocused and probably the most disappointing of the four," Brown said. "We've got to get better. I just didn't like our approach. I thought we were mentally weak today, four days in, so we've got to improve that.
"I didn't like our mental approach," he added. "I thought it was very immature and I thought our leadership was lacking. It was a little hot, we're day four into it and I just didn't think we responded very well.
"The whole deal is, if you do the little things right and you prepare and you work hard, then good things are going to happen. Then I think the opposite is also true. If you're not mentally prepared, if you're not taking care of your body, if you're not focusing on details then that ball will find you and you will be exposed. We had some guys get exposed today because they were not ready to go."
n Australian punter Max Hayes committed to West Virginia during the offseason, but never made it to Morgantown. That leaves the Mountaineers in a bit of a bind when it comes to that position.
On the roster provided to the media prior to the start of preseason camp there are two punters listed - freshmen Leighton Bechdel and Kolton McGhee. Brown was asked what he thought about WVU's punting so far in camp, and he did not have much to say on the subject.
"Next question," Brown joked. "I don't know yet."
n Brown had a visitor at practice Monday - one with a familar face to most college football fans.
Morgantown High graduate and former Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden stopped by the morning session and spent a few minutes chatting with the new WVU coach.
Bowden's father Bobby, who won two national championships as the head coach at Florida State, was the head coach at West Virginia prior to taking the job with the Seminoles. Bowden and his siblings, including former Auburn and Akron head coach Terry Bowden, did some of their growing up in Morgantown.
"(Bowden) looked good, didn't he? He looks young. He got out of (coaching) young," Brown joked. "It's good. He's welcome here anytime. He and (WVU defensive coordinator) Vic (Koenning) and (WVU defensive analyst) Ron West all worked together at Clemson, and I think that gave him that incentive to get here as well."