West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown is a man of opportunity.
And less than a month on the job, Brown was afforded an opportunity to snag former four-star recruit and Oklahoma signal caller Austin Kendall.
After Kendall spent three years watching and learning under Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, the Sooners insisted on recruiting the likes of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, forcing Kendall to reevaluate his options.
With this newfound opportunity, however, a crucial decision must be made.
After all, Kendall is not the only former blue-chip recruit roaming the halls of Milan Puskar Stadium. Jack Allison, the heir-apparent to Will Grier, also transferred to West Virginia in search of being the Mountaineers quarterback.
Let’s look at both West Virginia quarterbacks and decipher which one is most likely start in 2019.
Let’s start with Jack Allison. Allison, a former Miami transfer, has quickly found himself in a very peculiar situation. After spending two seasons waiting behind Will Grier, Allison will now be forced to deal with stiffer competition than what Trey Lowe provides if he intends on starting. If anything, Allison has a small advantage having been in the program the past two seasons. That obviously means less now that Neal Brown is the head coach and not Dana Holgorsen. However, Brown did claim that some of his passing offense would be similar to what Holgorsen ran during his time in West Virginia. We’ll see if that translates to Allison grasping Brown’s offense quicker than his counterparts.
Talent wise, Allison has all the tools to be a prolific air-raid gunslinger. That’s also part of the problem.
While Brown implied his offenses would incorporate elements of a typical air-raid attack, he also eluded to the fact that he began running the option at Troy to make his teams more difficult to stop. Allison is mobile enough to step in the pocket to avoid would-be tacklers, but he’s not capable of handling designed quarterback runs.
Allison does have one thing any starting quarterback needs – a strong arm. Accuracy is wildly important, but simply getting the ball to the receiver is a struggle for some weak-armed quarterbacks. Allison is not that. He’s proven he can sling it down field and make all the throws necessary to be a Big 12 signal caller.
One of the reasons West Virginia fans are so enamored by Austin Kendall is probably based on the fact that he didn’t play in the Mountaineers’ bowl game versus Syracuse. Allison looked mediocre at best against the Orange despite having nearly a month of preparation. And for many fans, the last memory we can call on for the 2018 season is that of Allison being sacked five times and throwing an interception. Kendall gives us something new.
Kendall also gives Brown something new. It gives the Mountaineers depth in the quarterback room and added competition to a wide-open job. On the field, Kendall is as good of a passer as Allison. On the surface, though, Kendall appears to be more accurate. While at Oklahoma, he completed over 70% of his passes (28-39) and threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Most of those completions were within 15 yards and rarely deep shots down the field, leading one to believe his arm strength can be called into question.
Just as important as arm strength and accuracy, Kendall is more capable of escaping the pocket than Allison. Though not the threat that Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray was, Kendall is still more mobile and elusive than 6-foot-5 Allison. This is somewhat important given Troy’s quarterbacks rushed for over 400 yards in 2018. Though I don’t expect Brown to call a multitude of plays that require his quarterbacks to run the ball, it is worth noting what dual-threat quarterbacks have been able to do in college football over the past five seasons.
In short, our answer has already been given to us. Austin Kendall did not consider West Virginia nor did Brown recruit him to Morgantown without the understanding that the former Sooner would become the eventual starter. It’s up to Jack Allison to reverse that narrative and reassert himself into the conversation.