West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown said the competition between Jarret Doege and Austin Kendall for the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback job came down to the final days. Yet, as close as Brown said the race was, he also says Doege doesn’t have to worry about a short leash.
During his weekly radio show, Brown said that even though he has faith in both Doege and Kendall to win Big 12 games, Doege earned his opportunity to start the season opener against Eastern Kentucky (noon Saturday, FS1). And that means he’ll have the chance to work through any snags along the way.
“I think it’s the same at quarterback as it is with any position,” Brown said. “You can’t have a short hook. You can’t have people scared to make mistakes playing. We want people to go out and to not be looking behind their shoulder. We want guys to look forward, take chances and not be afraid to fail.”
Both Doege and Kendall started for the Mountaineers last season. Kendall, an Oklahoma transfer started the first nine games and guided the Mountaineers to a 3-6 record in that time. Doege stepped in during WVU’s Game 9 loss to Texas Tech, then guided the Mountaineers to a 2-1 record in their final three games.
Those games were a road win at nationally ranked Kansas State, a one-touchdown home loss to a nationally ranked Oklahoma State team and a road win against a TCU team fighting for bowl eligibility.
Brown said Doege continued to show the qualities during this preseason that he exhibited during the end of the 2019 regular season, and that won him the starting job.
“Jarret did a really good job of taking care of the football,” Brown said. “He did really good job of managing us offensively and taking care of protections. He put a lot of work in in the offseason. Fundamentally, he’s the best I’ve seen him. And he scored touchdowns. He led scoring drives.”
The job isn’t just important news for Doege, but for the rest of the offense. If there was a question, that question has been answered, and the Mountaineer offense knows who to look toward in crunch time.
“I think it’s significant for the offense to know who the guy who’s going to be behind the center is,” Brown said. “Due to that position, fair or unfair, that position is expected — not only from staff, but from fans and teammates — to be a leadership role. He’s been working toward that anyway. Jarret has to be the leader on offense.”
STARTING LINE: Brown also let out who the starting offensive line would be in front of Doege, along with some players who will be important members of the rotation. Junior Uzebu will start at left tackle, while James Gmiter will start at left guard. Chase Behrndt will be at center, Mike Brown at right guard and John Hughes at right tackle.
Brown added that true freshman Zach Frazier will play plenty and can work at center and both guard spots. Briason Mays, who started seven games at center last season and worked at tackle this preseason, will stick on the right side and play both guard and tackle.
UP GOES FRAZIER: It’s not often that true freshmen will earn a spot in WVU’s offensive line rotation, but Brown said Frazier is plenty ready for the role. The coach thinks the Fairmont Senior product plays beyond his years.
“First of all, it’s his demeanor,” Brown said. “He’s always even-keel. He’s never too high or too low. The moment is never too big for him. He’s really strong and he plays with great leverage, which really is a testament to his wrestling.”
Frazier is a three-time West Virginia prep wrestling heavyweight state champion.
“He has long arms and big hands,” Brown added. “He’s got tools — maybe he’s not as tall as some of the greats who have been here, but he has great tools. And his hunger and ability to learn, he doesn’t repeat a lot of mistakes.”