Patience The Watchword In WVU Quarterback Development
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You watch them operate on a crisp fall Saturday afternoon, the quarterback taking the snap from center, settling down in the pocket, looking downfield as mayhem occurs all around him.
He spots a receiver running along the sideline, maybe having a half step on the cornerback. A blitzing linebacker is bearing down on him. He cocks his arm and unloads an arcing spiral as that linebacker unloads upon him.
The ball settles into the receiver’s arms 40 yards downfield and he is wrestled to the ground at the opponent’s eight-yard line as the crowd cheers wildly at yet another successful pass play.
It all looks so smooth, almost effortless as it is done … but the work that goes into such a player behind the locked doors of closed practices, or over the spring or the summer, in meeting rooms and tape sessions proves it to be anything but effortless.
And that is what is going on during West Virginia’s spring drills, multiplied 100 times over because they are in the midst of a transition, with new quarterbacks trying to learn a new system from a new coaching staff.
At the same time there is the mirror image of that on the other side, the coaches trying to teach this new system to new quarterbacks while, at the same time, trying to analyze them and to decide which one — in this case Jack Allison, Austin Kendall or Trey Lowe — should win the starting job.
Each quarterback has a different style trying to fit it into the same system with the same ultimate goal … winning football games.
Sean Reagan is the man in charge of the quarterbacks for WVU’s new coach Neal Brown, a veteran of 12 years and a long-time ally of Brown’s out of Georgia.
He’s been through this before and understands that it’s a challenging job on both sides, the coaching and the playing.
“It’s probably equal,” Reagan said when asked which side had it tougher in the transition. “Their head is probably spinning just a much as ours is trying to tell ourselves to remain patient, remain patient.”
In the end, that is the word — patience.
“When you are in year one of anything, patience is the word,” Reagan said. “When Coach Brown got the job at Troy, we wanted to implement everything. Year one was about patience because eventually they are going to get it.
“When we left, they had it. The offense was operating at a pretty good clip and we didn’t have to worry about it until the quarterback got hurt, but it was basically operating itself,” he continued. “Here, we’re back in year one phase. We have to remind ourselves, patience. We’re going to be good, but when?”
And so he puts them through their motions, day after day, trying first to win the day before anyone can think about a game.
And, as hard as Reagan may push them, it isn’t hard enough.
They must push themselves.
“The big thing about the quarterback is they have to love the game because they have to be able to study film on their own,” he said. “You only have so much time in the meeting room on an off day and only so much time in the meeting room on a practice daily. They probably only total, say, an hour and a half between the two days combined.
“That’s not really a lot of time, so you have to be able to treat football like it is another class. You have to be able to study film 45 minutes to an hour every night.”
But watching the football clips in the film room is not like watching “The Longest Yard” or “Knute Rockne: All-American.”
In fact, there’s an art to watching and analyzing film.
“We teach them how to study film in the off season. We teach them when you are studying this play, this is what you need to look at and when you are studying another play there’s something else to look at.
“Fundamentally, this is what you have to look at when you are studying yourself.
“We track how much film they watch when. We keep tabs on that. Sometimes it gets pretty repetitive and the time watching goes down, so you have to remind them, ‘You don’t know everything yet.’ You need to study more. It is what it is, it’s a very good tool as long as they treat like a classroom and they are studying for an exam.”
The competition will go on throughout the spring and, while Brown would like to decide on a starter before fall camp begins, it could carry over.
So it was that the question was put to Reagan as to what will be the most important factor in deciding on a starting quarterback.
The answer was somewhat surprising, for it really had nothing to do with his physical or mental skills
“I don’t know if there is one thing but the team has to believe in the guy who is going to be their quarterback,” Reagan said. “It would be hard to name someone at QB and not have the backing of the other 10 guys on the field.
“I think that’s the biggest factor other than them knowing what to do and who runs the team the best.”
And that may well be the hardest thing for the coaches to figure out.