Grier Isn’t The Only Quarterback Progressing In WVU’s Offense
So much of the focus on West Virginia’s offense this year centers around senior quarterback Will Grier that others get lost in the mix, at least to those in the outside world.
For those inside the walls of the Milan Puskar Center, Grier is just one piece of the puzzle. Admittedly he’s a big piece, but one piece nonetheless.
Believe it or not, Grier’s not even the only quarterback on the squad, though sometimes that fact gets lost in the media chatter.
WVU’s offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who also doubles as the team’s quarterback coach, actually has four quarterbacks at his disposal in preseason camp. Obviously Grier leads the way, but sophomore Jack Allison and true freshman Trey Lowe are battling for the backup spot. And walk-on Trent Jackson, a true freshman from Stevensville, Md., gives the Mountaineers another arm in practice.
“Jack and Trey both had good summers,” explained Spavital. “They’re eager. They want to meet and want to learn. We did a lot of board work and video work this summer. From a communication and operational standpoint, they are really good at it. Once you get that communication standpoint down as a quarterback, then you can concentrate on the task at hand, which is the execution. I think their execution is getting better and better.”
Allison transferred to West Virginia from the University of Miami (Fla.) in the summer of 2017. The 6-foot-6, 203-pounder from Palmetto, Fla., had to sit out of game action per NCAA transfer rules last season, but he’s now fully eligible and raring to go.
“Jake Allison has had three great practices in a row,” said Spavital in the early going of preseason camp. “I’m challenging him to continue that consistency. Consistency has been an issue for him in the past. He’s got a strong arm and all the physical tools. He just needs to develop consistency.”
As for Lowe, he graduated from Bolivar Central High in Collierville, Tenn., a semester early in order to enroll at WVU this past January. By getting a head start on his college career, he was able to go through spring practice and conditioning drills at WVU while many others in the Class of 2018 were worried about the prom and senior skip day.
“I love seeing the improvement of Trey,” Spavital said of the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Lowe. “He may be a true freshman, but I hold him to the standard like he’s a redshirt sophomore. I expect a lot from him.
“The thing I love about that room right now is they all come to work every day. I appreciate the fact that they ask me questions, and they make sure they understand what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Provided injuries don’t rear their ugly head, the time for Allison and Lowe will come in the future. Now is Grier’s turn, and the senior QB and his coach spend a whole lot of time together, be it in meetings, watching film or on the practice field. They look at the game from as many angles as possible, and even though they are often of like mind, they don’t agree on everything.
“I wouldn’t say we have arguments. We just discuss,” noted Spavital. “The funny thing is, and this is on any topic, I’ll plead my side of the case, and then he’ll tell his. And then we find a point where we agree. He gets it; he’s a coach’s kid. He understands he doesn’t have all the answers, and I tell him I don’t have all the answers as well. We just have to make sure we’re on the same page, and executing what we believe is best.”
Ultimately what is best for WVU is an offense that takes last year’s positives and adds to them. While the Mountaineers had the third-best scoring offense in the Big 12 in 2017, scoring 34.5 points a game, it was eighth in the league in third down conversions, making them 33.5 percent of the time.
Just imagine what West Virginia’s point total could have been with a few more possessions that would have come with a few more third down conversions?
“You hear us use the word ‘efficiency’ a lot,” Spavital noted. “We talk a lot about improving our efficiency and game management. Those are typically things that improve in year two with your quarterback, like Will. Year one, it’s mainly just, ‘Here are the play calls. Run it.’ Now he’s got a year under his belt, and he’s seen pretty much every scenario imaginable. He can get us into the right play calls. I’m giving him a lot freedom to go out there and make checks. We talk a lot about situational football, and we want to be situational masters. In this situation, this time of the game, this moment, we know what we want to do and we want to execute.”