MORGANTOWN — While West Virginia will spend its preseason working out its quarterback situation, out in Norman, Oklahoma, it is business a usual. Meanwhile, here in Morgantown, the WVU quarterback situation is a three-headed monster headed by transfer Austin Kendall.
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley is trying to groom his third consecutive Heisman Trophy winning QB, a feat that has never been accomplished and would crown the young Riley as king of the quarterback coaches.
Two years ago it was Baker Mayfield, who stepped forward to win the Heisman and went into the NFL and transformed the Cleveland Browns from laughable loser into a team on the rise.
Then last year, with Mayfield gone, his top back up Kyler Murray performed as well or better than Mayfield and gobbled up his own Heisman Trophy.
One would wonder if his backup were next in line. But that person would be the aforementioned Kendall, who became a graduate transfer to West Virginia to see if he could finally get on the field.
See, Kendall found himself as the odd man out again at Oklahoma when Riley latched onto the most intriguing graduate transfer of the lot in Alabama’s Jalen Hurts.
Hurts started as a freshman for Nick Saban in 2016 and won SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors. He then improved his QB rating from 139.1 to 150.2 his sophomore year, throwing just one interception in 255 attempts.
The next season, however, after winning 26 of 28 starts, Hurts was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, then a sophomore who narrowly lost out on the Heisman Trophy to Murray and who comes into this season as the odds-on favorite to bring home the Heisman Trophy.
When Saban made his decision, he knew he would be in the midst of a cyclone of controversy.
“I understand how unique a situation this is,” Saban told ESPN. “I don’t know of any other precedent at any time in college football where a guy started 28 games, won 26 of them, and then somebody took his place. That’s never happened.”
Hurts gutted it out; he backed up the whole season and caused no problems. But with the Oklahoma job open after Murray went to the NFL, he opted to go to the QB master that is Riley.
Things are changing in college football today, and analysts have become more interested in yards per play rather than the traditional stats of completion percentage, yards gained and interceptions to touchdowns.
The reason? There was a recent article published that showed in the 1990s quarterbacks averaged 8.0 or more total yards per play in a season 18 times. In the 2000s, it occurred 23 times.
With one year left in the 2010s it has already happened 60 times, including seven passers last year — Murray, Tagovailoa, West Virginia’s Will Grier, Ohio’s Nathan Rourke, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Houston’s D’Eriq King and Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu.
Hurts’ profile shows he averaged 6.52 yards per play as a freshman, 7.2 as a sophomore and last year, in his backup role playing against backups often, he jumped to 8.79 yards per play.
You can deduce from the way that stat is trending and from Hurts moving over to work with the man who produced the last two Heisman winners, that big things may be brewing again in Norman.
Should it happen, a third straight Oklahoma quarterback winning the Heisman Trophy, it would be unprecedented.
In fact, only four schools in the history of the Heisman Trophy have had three or more QBs win the award, let alone in consecutive seasons.
Oklahoma, with Murray, Mayfield, Sam Bradford in 2008 and Jason White in 2003, has four winners, as does Notre Dame with Angelo Bertelli in 1943; Johnny Lujak, 1947; Paul Hornung, 1956 and John Huarte, 1964.
Two schools — Florida and Florida State, oddly enough — have had three quarterback winners.
As for a school winning three consecutive Heisman Trophies, it has never happened. Yale, 1936-37; Army, 1945-46; Ohio State, 1975-76; Southern California, 2004-2005 and Oklahoma have won two straight trophies.
Only one conference, the Big Ten, has won three straight Heisman Trophies when Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota took home the award in 1939-40-41.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.