Allison Acclimatization Top Priority For WVU
ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s been something of a mixed bag for WVU quarterback Jack Allison as he prepares to take the reins of the West Virginia offense in Friday’s Camping World Bowl.
On the one hand, he has been the Mountaineer backup all year. He’s gotten roughly 30% of the snaps during WVU’s weekly preparations. He’s worked with some of the backups at other positions, especially those that could be elevating to bigger roles in the contest against Syracuse, and he’s been in the program for two seasons.
On the other hand, he hasn’t played in a game yet where he’s under fire, or when the game hasn’t been decided, other than the hand-off or two he’s executed when Will Grier had to come out of the game for a play. Which set of facts will weight most heavily when he gets under center at Camping World Stadium early Friday evening?
Getting his thoughts on the matter isn’t possible, as he’s being withheld from interviews, so his teammates’ thoughts will have to suffice. Those, like the outline above, cover the range of what he’s facing and how he has been working to be as prepared as possible. Receivers, with timing and communication keys, have views on that, while the offensive line also knows it needs to fend off the Syracuse pass rush in order to keep him pressure-free.
“It’s something that just can’t happen overnight, but every time Will (Grier) was out there, Jack was out there, too, throwing with us,” David Sills said of the chemistry and reads that passer and receiver must share. “So, it’s something we’ve been building for the last couple of weeks, trying to get it as good as it can get before the game. I think we have a pretty good connection. Obviously, it’s not what Will and I had, but we’ve been working towards getting it as good as it can be.”
Tight end Trevon Wesco noted that while each passer has his own way of throwing the ball, down to how it comes out of his hand and what it looks like in the air, the adjustment isn’t a big one for him.
“The cadence is a little bit different, and you just have to get together on the chemistry, and the timing of him throwing the football is a little different because everybody throws the football a little bit differently,” he said before changing gears just a bit. “It’s not really that much different. It’s just like throw and catch. You have to catch the ball if it comes out of his hands, so it’s not that different, really.”
The connection process with receivers is fairly straightforward, but it’s also there in more subtle ways at other spots. Running backs need to be comfortable with the exchange on hand-offs, which can vary slightly. Offensive linemen, while not changing their own processes, often have a feel for how their quarterback will react when under pressure or which way he’ll slide to avoid a rush. Getting used to that can help them protect more efficiently.
“It does change some of it, just his playing style compared to Will’s (Grier).,” offensive lineman Colton McKivitz noted. “Baylor, when he came in, he definitely had some confidence that was there, and we believed in him. I think our thing when he came in was to throw a bomb to get him started. He hit (senior wide receiver) Gary (Jennings Jr.) for a long touchdown, so I think that definitely helped with that confidence. This week, and last week in the couple of bowl practices that we’ve had, it’s just building that confidence for him. That’s going to be our job to keep him clean, because if he’s clean early, then he’s going to have that confidence with completions and getting him comfortable back there. So, that’s our biggest part, keeping him clean and comfortable.”
The typical path to building that confidence for a QB in a first-time situation is to set up some shorter passes and simpler completions. That could also help in getting the ball out of Allison’s hands quickly to negate some of the Syracuse pass rush. However, there’s nothing like a big completion downfield to help get a passer going, so it won’t be a surprise to see WVU run some deep routes early.
“He’s getting more confidence in himself with calling the plays out there. He doesn’t have that much experience on the field, but you can tell he’s getting more comfortable every week,” Wesco summed up. “We’ve been practicing for two weeks now, and he’s getting more comfortable every day, and he was getting better every day during the season, so he’s come a long way.”