The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 6, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU’s future rides on QB ‘Young Geno’

MORGANTOWN — Funny, isn’t it, how a guy named Crest can bring a smile to so many faces in the West Virginia football offices, but that’s the “scope” of what happened on Wednesday morning when quarterback William Crest returned his signed letter of intent.

“He’d been a target of ours for the better part of three years,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen admitted.

So much so that when Holgorsen brought Lonnie Galloway back to coach wide receivers last season, this was pretty much the high point of the first day on the job:

“As soon as he got here I said, ‘Good, go over to Baltimore and create a relationship with William Crest,’” Holgorsen recalled.

Baltimore was going to be Galloway’s recruiting territory, and why not?

He’d been the man who brought Tavon Austin from Dunbar High to Morgantown and that worked out pretty well, as we all recall.

And since he was going to Dunbar, he was quite interested in Austin’s career at WVU and became attached to much that was going on here. One of the things he became attached to was the quarterback who was throwing the ball to Austin, Geno Smith.

In fact, they got to calling him “Young Geno.”

“It’s one of those things, high school kids get rated so high,” Galloway said. “We want him to be successful, but you never know. Geno put up crazy numbers with Coach Holgorsen. We don’t want him to be Geno. We want him to come here and be himself.”

“He’s big, strong, live arm, can run, athletic. He’s able to extend plays. It’s going to be a thing for him to come here and get comfortable,” Galloway said.

No one doubts that William Crest holds the key to WVU’s future. The question more is whether or not he holds the key to Holgorsen’s, which isn’t as strong as it was after his first season that included a stunning 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson.

Here’s the problem.

Crest is a freshman and, yes, Geno wound up playing as a freshman but few do … and there are other experienced quarterbacks on hand, including last year’s starter Clint Trickett, coming off minor shoulder surgery; last year’s backup Paul Millard; and another talented newcomer, junior college transfer Skyler Howard.

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Shannon Dawson knows that this drama is going to have to play itself out.

“I told the group, there is no starting quarterback. One is going to have to step up. You have an opportunity to start. We started all three of our guys last year and we have to do better,” he said.

Howard has ability. Although only 5-11, he completed 219 of 325 passes last year for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns, and if Crest’s favorite quarterback is Geno Smith, Dawson’s is a guy named Russell Wilson, who just won the Super Bowl for Seattle.

“I don’t think he’ll win the 100-yard dash in the Olympics, but he has the ability to extend plays,” Shannon said, something that didn’t happen last year. “More important on critical plays, you have to extend the play and give your receivers time to get open. The hardest thing for DBs is to cover for a long time.

“Plays don’t happen now like they used to where you know who will be open and when.”

It could be that Trickett’s experience could make the difference or that Howard’s 11-1 season in junior college could allow Holgorsen to wait on Crest, but with his job in question, you might expect Holgorsen to force feed him if he believes he’s the best he’s got … and he believes that.

“William is the future of the program,” Holgorsen said. “He has those intangibles with leadership and a skill that he’s developed over the years. He’s not the loudest guy, but he has those leadership skills.”

And so it is that Crest will not be brushed aside and get every chance.

But don’t forget, this year’s opener just happens to be against a team named Alabama and that’s a tough way to break in a freshman.

In fact, it would be a far better situation if you could break in a freshman named Crest against … oh, say Colgate?

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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