Allison Not Backing Down In WVU QB Competition
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia quarterbacks Austin Kendall and Jack Allison have been splitting reps all spring.
The two juniors even did it on Tuesday in the first interview session either has had in front of a gathering of WVU beat reporters. Kendall went first in the Puskar Center team room, answering questions for 13 minutes and three seconds. Then Allison followed his fellow QB to the podium and spent 13 minutes and one second responding to media queries.
The battle between the two to replace Will Grier as the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback has been just as close all spring as their interview times on Tuesday.
“I’m an athlete. I’m here to compete, and that’s all I want to do,” stated Allison. “I think it brings the best out of everybody to compete, so it’s been a great room, all great guys. It’s been really enjoyable to be in there every day, go to practice, and I’ve been having a good time.”
Both Allison and Kendall came to West Virginia as transfers. Kendall arrived at WVU as a grad transfer this past January after spending the previous three years at Oklahoma. A four-star prospect from Palmetto, Fla., Allison initially attended Miami, but after one redshirt season with the Hurricanes in 2016, he decided to look for a new home.
“I committed to the University of Miami when I was a sophomore in high school, and that was a little early,” explained the Palmetto High grad who was regarded as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the country in his class. “Looking back, it’s what I wanted to do; I loved the University. I loved the coaching staff that was there at the time – Al Golden and (offensive coordinator) James Coley, that staff. When I got there, I think it was within a month span of the time when I enrolled, that’s when they got fired. They brought Coach (Mark) Richt in, and I love Coach Richt. He’s a great human being, a great coach. It just wasn’t the right fit for me, though. I saw Morgantown as a great college town, a place that I wanted to be a part of. They always had success. I loved the Air Raid offense and the Big 12, so it just seemed like the perfect fit for me.”
Allison actually ran West Virginia’s offense before he even arrived at West Virginia. As the Hurricanes were preparing to face the WVU in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Allison was in charge of the UM scout team offense, mimicking the Mountaineer attack.
“It’s kind of funny, I ran West Virginia’s offense in the bowl game, and I was just starting that week without knowing if I was going to transfer or not,” he explained. “I loved that offense, and then, it was just a blessing. I was sitting in one of my classes at the University of Miami, and (former WVU offensive coordinator) Jake Spavital hit me up. I was like, ‘Well, look at that.’ The relationship grew, and I just fell in love with Morgantown.”
Allison arrived at WVU in the summer of 2017 and had to sit out the following season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. The Florida kid also had to learn to adjust to winter.
“It was different,” he chuckled of the weather. “I cannot lie to you. It was cold, but you get used to it. I definitely miss the sun, but I love Morgantown. I really do. I’ve learned to love it.”
Allison finally got into a college game last fall as a sophomore. Backing up Grier, he played in seven games, completing 23-of-45 passes for 352 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“Sitting behind Will was a blessing for me,” Allison noted. “How he carried himself every day, the work ethic he brought in, and the plays he would make on Saturday were incredible to watch. Really, I took a lot away from him just in his character, more than anything.
“I’ve been blessed to sit behind Brad Kaaya at the University of Miami and now Will Grier,” he added. “Seeing how they carried themselves on and off the field and seeing how they conducted sessions just like this, I think I took away a lot.”
When Grier decided to skip West Virginia’s Camping World Bowl appearance against Syracuse, Allison stepped into the starting role. He completed 27-of-35 passes for 277 yards against the Orange, though in a 34-18 loss.
“That was such a huge learning experience for me,” said Allison of playing in the bowl game. “I’m so grateful for that opportunity, just learning what it’s like to really be out there in the first quarter. I got in a few times during the season, but it was more towards the end of the game where the game was dead. Just to get in there and see live bullets from the first to the fourth quarter, it was such a great experience for me, and I’m so grateful for it.”
Not long after the bowl game in Orlando, Allison and most of the Mountaineers were thrown for a loop when their head coach Dana Holgorsen left to take over at the University of Houston.
Neal Brown was quickly hired as WVU’s new mentor, and he brought in a new staff.
“It’s going really well, honestly,” said Allison of the change. “I really like the flow of how Coach Brown calls the games, and the different types of (offense), it’s very similar to last year’s (offense). It really is, and I think it’s just called different. The terminology is different. The team’s really picking it up well. I think it’s going to be really effective in the fall, so we’re all excited.
“Coach Brown is big on just building relationships with coaches and with players. So, that’s something that he’s really pushing. It’s something that, I think, is changing the culture of the program for the good.”
Jack now finds himself battling for the starting quarterback job with Kendall and also redshirt freshman Trey Lowe. It’s been a friendly competition.
“It’s certainly different situation,” Allison noted. “(Kendall) had been at Oklahoma for as many years as he was, and I was at the University of Miami and ended up transferring. I have a lot of respect for the guy. He’s a great competitor, great quarterback. He’s a great dude, too, just talking to him.
“I think I handled myself the same as the first day I got onto campus, just working as hard as I can every day,” he continued. “I came here to start, I came here to win games. This is what I want to do, this what I’m here to do.”
To win the starting job, Allison admits there are things he has to improve.
“I could sit here and name everything that I want to get better at, because I think I just have such a long way to go,” he noted. “But I think weight is just the biggest thing for me.”
His 208 pounds are strung out over a 6-foot-6 frame, and while he has plenty of arm strength, getting bigger will enable him to better absorb the punishment of playing major college football.
The Mountaineers will resume their workouts on May 26.
“It’s going be a big summer for me and the team,” Allison stated. “Individually, I’m just going to be working as hard as I can to get bigger, get faster and just really hone in this offense to a master level. With the team, just growing as a team and growing our relationships every day.
“I can’t control everything,” he concluded. “All I can control is how hard I work and how hard I work every day when I come in here. So, that’s all I really did, and just let God take care of all the rest.”