WVU Camp Notebook: Brown Names His Starting Quarterback

WVU Camp Notebook: Brown Names His Starting Quarterback


MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–West Virginia’s first-year head coach Neal Brown spent more than eight months evaluating his quarterbacks.

As preseason camp came to a close Tuesday, Brown finally named his starter.

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown

“Austin Kendall won our starting quarterback job,” the coach said of the junior QB. “We tracked everything from spring practice through fall camp – decision making, completion percentage, number of turnovers, scoring drives. It was clear after Friday night’s scrimmage that he earned it.”

So the 6-foot-1, 221-pound transfer from Oklahoma, who arrived at WVU in January, will get the first snaps in the Aug. 31 opener against James Madison.

The competition after him continues, joined now by Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege, who was granted immediate eligibility recently by the NCAA.

“Jack Allison did a good job. I believe in him,” Brown said of the junior, who was West Virginia’s top backup behind Will Grier last year. “(Redshirt freshman) Trey Lowe is a guy who prepares well and continues to improve and could potentially see some game action.

“Jarret Doege’s waiver was approved on Friday, but that doesn’t really change our plan for him,” the head coach added. “The plan for him, as of today, is to redshirt. He’s coming offseason surgery. He’s been a little bit behind, and I think that’s the right decision for him as we start the season.”

* * * * * *

While the NCAA has approved Doege’s request for immediate eligibility, WVU is still waiting on a decision in regards to a similar waiver request for sophomore receiver Sean Ryan, who transferred from Temple to West Virginia this spring.

“We’re waiting. Hopefully we’ll find out (soon),” Brown said. “How we’re handling that is we’re preparing him to play. We’re hopeful he gets the waiver. If he doesn’t, there’s nothing we can do about it. I think he has a strong case; I’ll say that. I think he has an extremely strong case.”

* * * * * *

West Virginia held a major full-contact scrimmage Friday night, and Brown praised the performances of a number of his players for their efforts in that workout.

• “(Sophomore defensive tackle) Dante Stills had a nice night in the stadium.

• “(Junior safety) Sean Mahone had his best practice since we’ve been here as a staff.

• “Nicktroy Fortune is a true freshman at corner who has made some serious moves and is challenging to be a starter at that position.

• “(Senior cornerback) Devan Wade had a pick-six. He’s kind of been around and waited his turn, and he’s taking advantage of an opportunity.

• “(Senior defensive end) Reuben Jones showed up and was really active.

• “(Junior) Mike Brown at our left guard position continues to perform well in game action.

• “(Senior left tackle) Colton McKivitz has been our best player thus far in camp.

• “(Junior quarterback) Austin Kendall and (senior running back) Kennedy McKoy (played well in Friday’s scrimmage). I thought Austin had his best day since he’s been here, and McKoy looked like the player I thought he could be, which is one of the best running backs in our league.

• “(Redshirt freshman receiver) Sam James had a couple big plays, which were positives.”

* * * * * *

West Virginia did more full-contact work Tuesday morning, concentrating on short-yardage situations and special teams.

• “(Senior running back Martell) Pettaway in the short-yardage/goal line was impressive, probably the best I’ve seen him.

• “I thought (junior center/guard) Josh Sills and Mike Brown had good goal line periods.

• “Again Dante Stills, for the second time in as many evaluations, created some negative plays.

• “I like where (junior placekicker) Evan Staley is at. I told you before that it was important that we added Josh (Growden, the senior transfer from LSU) as a punter, but it was also important to add him as a holder. He started three years at LSU as their holder, and he’ll be our starting holder when we open up next week.”

* * * * * *

Brown revealed his starting quarterback, but he said he and his staff are still evaluating the depth chart overall, especially the backup jobs.

“A lot of those two spots on the depth chart are determined by special teams,” explained the former Troy head coach. “If you have a chance to be a factor on special teams, you are more likely to travel and earn a job as a two compared to the guy who is not on special teams.”

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* * * * * *

Brown has not yet indicated which true freshmen will definitely play this year, but he hinted a number of first-year defensive backs are likely to see considerable action this season, if not as starters then certainly as backups

West Virginia defensive backs Nicktroy Fortune (11) Malachi Ruffin (14) and Tae Mayo (20) work through a ladder drill
West Virginia defensive backs Nicktroy Fortune (11) Malachi Ruffin (14) and Tae Mayo (20) work through a ladder drill

“We’re young in the secondary,” he noted. “There are upwards of four, maybe five, true freshmen playing in the secondary. I thought Nicktroy Fortune, (safety) Tykee Smith and (safety) Kerry Martin made some key movement from scrimmage one to scrimmage two.

“We’re pressing Nicktroy Fortune and Tae Mayo into action,” said Brown of the true freshmen corners. “Nicktroy is probably a little further along, but I like Tae Mayo, too. I like how he competes. There will probably be a little baptism by fire playing in this league as a true freshman, but hey, that’s where we’re at.”

Previously, defensive line coach Jordan Lesley noted that freshmen Jordan Jefferson and Jalen Thornton would play, although both could be limited to four games or fewer to preserve their redshirts.

* * * * * *

West Virginia’s tight end situation is improving, as junior Jovani Haskins and redshirt freshmen T.J. Banks, who both missed most of preseason camp because of injuries, are getting healthier.

“Banks is back full-go, and we hope Haskins will be back full-go by the end of the week. He has not practiced full-go so far in fall camp,” noted Brown. “(Redshirt freshman Mike) O’Laughlin is a guy who continues to do well, but it’s a big leap. It’s a big transition. The last time he played real football, he weighed 190-some pounds (as a high school senior; he’s now 250).”

Brown didn’t comment on Haskins’ status in regards to the three misdemeanor charges brought against him for a July traffic situation.

* * * * * *

Classes start at West Virginia University on Wednesday, and the football players will not practice on that first day of the fall semester.

The Mountaineers will be back on the practice field on Thursday, and at that point they’ll start to narrow their focus on game planning for their season opening opponent – the James Madison Dukes.

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