Return, Departure For WVU Football
MORGANTOWN — Quarterback Will Grier’s season ended as he dove toward the end zone against Texas and suffered a broken middle finger on his passing hand, but his career will continue next year at West Virginia University.
Grier announced on Thursday, one day before he graduates, that he has decided to return to school for the 2018 season because he has business to finish as a collegiate player.
“After much prayer and consultation with my family and coaches, I have decided to return to WVU for my senior season,” Grier said. “There is still a great deal that I want this team to accomplish and I look forward to helping lead us to success in 2018. I am completely focused and looking forward to building off the success we had this year and want to do even greater things next year. West Virginia is my home, and I couldn’t be more excited about the future here.”
At the same time, WVU’s leading rusher, senior Justin Crawford, announced he would bypass the Mountaineers trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft.
“Justin has logged a lot of miles and been a key contributor for us the past two seasons,” coach Dan Holgorsen said. “He made a decision to not play in the bowl game based on what is best for him and his family. He came to West Virginia to further his education and be a featured back in the Big 12 and he accomplished his goals. As he starts his preparation for the NFL Draft, we wish him nothing but the best.”
Both Grier and Crawford have families, Grier a wife and one child and Crawford and wife and two children.
Grier is not expected to be recovered in time to play in the Dec. 26 bowl game against Utah, which means that the Mountaineers will be without their top passer and rusher.
WVU’s offense accounted for 5,821 total yards during this 7-5 season and Grier and Crawford compiled 4,624 of those yards, Crawford recording his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing year with 1,062 yards and Grier rushing for 122 and passing for 3,490
Grier will return next year as one of the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy, an award no WVU player has ever won.
A year ago he was the third top quarterback in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, who won the award, and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, a finalist for the award.
A transfer from Florida, where as freshman he was unbeaten in five starts before being suspended for using a banned substance, Grier was the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year this season.
He started 11 games this season, completing 250-of-388 passes for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has thrown for 300 or more yards in nine games and has had multiple touchdown passes in 10 games.
“Will’s decision to return next year certainly makes it a great day for West Virginia football,” Holgorsen said. “He is a great leader for our program, and I know our fans enjoy watching his talents on the football field. His teammates and the coaching staff are certainly looking forward to his return, and this is positive news for all involved.”
While it has not yet been announced, its expected that David Sills V, the national leader in TD passes received with 18 and a second-team AP All-American and Biletnikof Award finalist will return also
Grier is tied for ninth place all time in WVU history in TD passes and ranked seventh nationally in passing touchdowns and passing efficiency while ranking No. 8 in passing yards per game and No. 9 in points responsible for and No. 10 in total offense.
In the West Virginia single-season record book, Grier ranks No. 2 in passing touchdowns, is tied for No. 2 in touchdowns responsible for and is No. 5 in total offense and completions. He is No. 3 in junior passing and total offense.
A second-team All-Big 12 performer, Crawford was the third leading rusher in the Big 12 Conference with 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns. He had seven 100-yard rushing performances, including a season-high 125 yards against Kansas. He finished with multiple touchdowns against East Carolina (2) and Delaware State (3).
He became the first WVU running back to rush for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since Noel Devine in 2008 and 2009.
As a junior in 2016, Crawford finished with 1,184 yards and four touchdowns and was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year as well as a All-Big 12 First-Team selection. He had a career-best 331 yards against Oklahoma and had 209 yards against Baylor.