Previewing West Virginia’s Quarterback Room
We began our Mountaineer Spring Preview series with a general overview. Now, we continue the series by looking at the most visible position on the field. Today, we are previewing West Virginia’s quarterback room and how that might shape up this Spring.
The Returning Talent
West Virginia returns two scholarship players to its quarterback room this Spring. Multi-year starter Jarret Doege returns, as does redshirt freshman Garrett Greene. The Mountaineers also return Matt Cavallaro, a redshirt sophomore walk-on transfer from familiar Lackawanna Community College.
Generally, when a team returns a veteran starter, fans can safely presume that the veteran will retain the starting job. As a result, the “safe” money here is that Doege enters and finishes Spring atop the depth chart. That said, we certainly have questions over whether he has much room left to improve. Indeed, Doege started 13 games over the last two seasons under head coach Neal Brown. He also started 19 games over two seasons at Bowling Green. As a result, Doege enters his fifth season with 33 games and over 1,000 pass attempts under his belt.
Typically, year five at the college level does not feature a substantial jump in skill or talent for a quarterback, especially when that quarterback has started games and racked up significant experience in those first four years. Instead, we would expect, at best, some detail-oriented improvements. Perhaps Doege improves his footwork slightly, or learns to move the pocket a bit better, or gains better pocket awareness.
Indeed, Brown pointed to these areas of focus in his pre-Spring press conference. He said this is a big Spring for Doege because “he has to take the next step.” Brown also brought attention to Doege’s need to improve the deep ball. He was quick to point out that Doege protects the ball well (for the most part, he does) and that Doege did not “lose us any games.”
The last point is debatable. We also question whether Doege even has the ability to improve his deep ball. Significant improvement in arm strength and long-pass accuracy does not often happen at this stage of development. While footwork and pocket awareness details might progress, we think that, for the most part, Doege is who he is at the position. While he might not directly lose games, the limitations he possesses–not a serious threat to pick up a first down with his legs, not a serious deep-ball threat, inconsistency in completing the easy throws of 3 or fewer yards–certainly give opposing defenses a big shot in the arm.
Indeed, through much of last season, fans called for Brown to play Greene over Doege. Even with no sample size from which to draw many conclusions about his ability at this level, fans continue to call for Greene to start next season. Alas, that is what Spring ball is for. Because of the pandemic, Greene, who enrolled early to get a jump start on his development, was unable to take advantage of the benefits of Spring camp last year. Brown readily admits that this set Greene’s development back. He told fans this was the biggest reason he did not play Greene more often last season. He simply was not ready.
That said, Brown also calls this a big Spring for Greene. Greene, he said, better “understands our expectations.” He will get plenty of reps to develop his game, and we will watch his progression with keen interest. According to Brown, Greene had a productive offseason, and he admits to “looking forward to watching Garrett play in the Spring.”
When he signed his letter of intent, Brown told fans he was excited to add Greene because he was a proven winner through substantial adversity. Brown said Greene just had the winner’s mentality. Fans saw a glimpse of that moxie when Greene saw time against Eastern Kentucky. Brown gave him an ear full, however, when Greene recklessly sought contact after a decent run against the Colonels. Assuming the Mountaineers play a full Spring, fans can expect to see more from Greene during the Spring Game on April 24. His performance (he will likely be the starter opposite Doege) will help determine whether and how quickly he can compete for a starting spot.
Cavallaro led Lackawanna College to the NJCAA National Championship game in his freshman season. Through eleven starts, the team lost only one game under his leadership. After that season, he transferred to West Virginia as a walk-on. He earned many of the scout team reps last season. We doubt he has a significant impact on the quarterback rotations, but we also know that Brown thrives on getting a few surprise performers out of his walk-on players. We would expect to see him lead the offense at least one or two drives during the Spring Game.
West Virginia’s quarterback room also adds Will Crowder this Spring. As an early enrollee, Crowder has been through winter conditioning, and he will be ready to earn reps during camp. Crowder’s high school highlight reels show impressive arm action. Crowder is not intimidated by difficult throws, and he proved capable at the high school level of completing passes through tight windows. Indeed, Crowder’s strengths seem to lie primarily in his arm accuracy.
Like Doege and Cavallaro, Crowder is more of a pocket passer. As a result, he does not offer a true dual threat from the position. That said, he can make plays with his legs when the pocket collapses, and that is a trait from which the Mountaineers could benefit. Pocket awareness was also a strength in high school.
When we read through the various scouting reports on Crowder, one comparison caught our immediate attention. 247Sports’ regional scout compared Crowder to Brandon Silvers, who led the Troy Trojans during Brown’s first three years there. After suffering through a 4-8 season his sophomore year, Silvers helped Brown lead the Trojans to a combined 21 wins during his junior and senior seasons. If the comparison stands, then Crowder certainly offers Brown a skill set with which he is very familiar.
The Verdict: Previewing West Virginia’s Quarterback Room
Ultimately, we expect that the depth chart, to the extent one is released, both before and after the Spring game to feature Doege, Greene, Crowder, and Cavallaro, in that order. We remain anxious to see what Greene and Crowder can do with their first opportunities to earn significant reps. As we noted, we expect Doege and Greene to start opposite each other during the Spring game (assuming the team uses the same format it did two years ago). We expect Cavallaro and Crowder to see the field as well, leading one or two drives each.
While Spring does not tell the full story of a quarterback’s capability, we will at least see whether Greene offers a complete skill set, and we will get our first chance for a meaningful look at Crowder’s skill set. If either of them plays extremely well through Spring and in the Spring game, then we can start talking about a potential quarterback battle (which, frankly, we would like to see).
We also cannot discount the possibility that Brown adds another quarterback through the transfer market. That said, we know he will not reach for one, leaving only a handful that he might consider bringing in. Given the other positions of need to fill in the roster for 2021, we think that, overall, it is unlikely that West Virginia adds to its quarterback room through the transfer market.