MORGANTOWN — Is Skyler Howard West Virginia University’s quarterback of the future?
That was the burning question left in the wake of the 2014 season, a season that began with Clint Trickett looking like the next Marc Bulger but which ended with him sliding backward due to physical issues that eventually forced him out of football.
As things worked out, William Crest — the anointed one — also had a physical problem with his shoulder and after winning the backup job wound up with a redshirt while Paul Millard, a one-time starter, also wound up with a redshirt.
That left the job to Howard by default and he was impressive in two starts and half a game against Kansas State.
Impressive, but is he the quarterback of the future?
That question cannot yet be answered.
On the surface, you would say Howard placed himself in position to be THE MAN next year.
With him running the offense WVU scored 37 points against an SEC team.
Howard threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
He showed an escapability in situations where his porous offensive line let defenders come leaking through and finished as the team’s second-leading rusher in the game with 33 rushing yards.
His play in the last three games have given him eight TDs and no interceptions yet …
There were problems, enough that no one was going to commit to him as the quarterback, not even himself.
“I don’t think I played very good, honestly,” he said. “I missed a few throws, and that slowed us down.”
It was strange. His passes were sailing high on him, often far over open receivers … like Cody Clay, who ran a route the Mountaineers had not run all year and was wide open.
“I kept missing high for some reason,” he said. “That’s something I’ve got to work on.”
He said he was “antsy,” which is understandable as he isn’t a seasoned veteran.
There is room to improve … greatly.
“He could definitely play better,” Shannon Dawson, the offensive coordinator who was working his final game before leaving for a similar title and job with far more responsibility at Kentucky said. “He probably had about five balls that he wished he had back. He made some throws down the field that were big plays, but had some routine plays that floated on him a little bit.”
He did make big plays.
He hit Kevin White, playing his final game for WVU before heading off to the NFL draft, where he’s projected to be a first-round selection, and three other receivers for completions of 40 yards or more.
Some of them were absolute things of beauty, as good as were his high sailing passes were bad.
And he could have had some help, too.
“I’d give Skyler a B,” said White, whose final game saw him with seven catches for 129 yards and touchdown. “The receivers didn’t make many plays. Too many dropped balls. I know I dropped a ball. There were just little things that separated us from getting the win.”
Whatever, a battle royal is set up for the coming spring and summer at the position that will determine just how good the Mountaineer offense is and Howard knows it.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said, “and I think we’ll get there.”
NOTES: Texas A&M student assistant coach Michael Richardson was fired by head coach Kevin Sumlin on Tuesday in the wake of twice elbowing WVU players on the sideline in Monday’s Liberty Bowl.
Sumlin issued the following statement:
“On behalf of the Texas A&M football program, I want to apologize to Darryl Worley and to Andrew Buie as well as to Coach Holgorsen and the West Virginia family for the inexcusable actions of the student assistant.
“I also want to apologize to the Aggie faithful, as they deserve a program to be proud of, not only in our play, but in the integrity and respect we show on and off the field.”
Sumlin added that Richardson’s actions “are not representative of our program.”
A former A&M defensive lineman whose career ended with a back injury, Richardson also issued a statement.
“In the heat of the moment in yesterday’s game I did lose myself with everything going on. To the players involved I do apologies (sic) for the ignorance I displayed and there was nothing personal with the actions I made on that sideline yesterday. To the school, fans and friends of WVU my actions were uncalled for and it was very disrespectful to y’all and the game I love so dearly. And for every Aggie I let down I know that is not how an Aggie acts no ifs ands or buts about it.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.