Setting the stage for spring football at WVU The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

Neal Brown is calling it the first "true offseason" for the Mountaineer football program since 2019. The team held its first spring practice Tuesday, and will continue practicing through the Gold-Blue Game on April 23.    In this edition of The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, Nick Farrell is joined by Mountaineer Football Insider Anjelica Trinone. They breakdown key storylines, position battles and players on the roster who have the most to prove as the next phase of the offseason begins.    Subscribe to The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, sponsored by Pritt & Spano, to have future episodes delivered to you.    Download the free Gold and Blue Nation app on your favorite Apple or Android device for more football coverage throughout the spring. 

The WVU football quarterback battle will be at the forefront when the spring season heats up on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers lost their starter from last season, Jarret Doege, to the transfer portal and welcome one of the most highly anticipated players of the 2022 class in Nicco Marchiol.

As a freshman, Marchiol will compete against returners Garrett Greene and Will Crowder for the starting spot. Greene, a redshirt sophomore, played in 11 games last season. All four of his touchdowns were rushing. Crowder redshirted last season.

Not only will WVU have a new signal-caller, it will also have a new play-caller in offensive coordinator Graham Harrell. While lack of collegiate experience at the position is not necessarily ideal, Harrell believes there is a positive to the youth in the quarterback room.

“Having young guys is fun because you can kind of mold them the way you want to and you can ingrain things in them. You aren’t breaking four-year habits, you are breaking 1-to-2 year habits, but at the same time, you can’t replace experience either,” Harrell said. “Experience helps. Game experience is the most important kind of experience but we’ll do the best we can to make up for it this spring. We’ll get a ton of reps.”

For young players, it can be difficult to emerge as a leader quickly, but that is exactly what the program is looking for out of its next QB1.

“Being the leader is part of being quarterback whether you like it or not. You have to have the courage to speak up and on-field production helps with that. It gives you immediate credibility,” Harrell said. “The other thing I think is important — whatever we identify as our culture, whatever we say we are going to be, those guys better embody it. And if they don’t you are in trouble as a football team.”

Setting the standard comes with the territory and it isn’t a challenge the three contenders are shying away from. Head coach Neal Brown has described the trio as having “alpha mentalities” through winter workouts, and Harrell noted they have all stepped in the leadership department, but of course, that only gets you so far.

When it comes to physical, on-field traits, accuracy is at the top of the list for Harrell. That’s the foundation of his mold as a quarterback. Natural throwing motions are also a priority. After that is where leadership and character come in. The person has to fit the culture and has the same values. If they don’t, the talent doesn’t matter.

He’s also learned from experience what to put closer to the bottom of his list of concerns when evaluating a QB — stature.

“The build isn’t as big to me. At North Texas, I had a quarterback who I think could play anywhere in the country in Mason Fine. I took his commitment without seeing him and the first time he walked in the room I was hoping that wasn’t him,” Harrell said. “You see him and he was like 155-pounds, 5’10. I’m like man, I messed up. He ended up playing as a true freshman and is one of the best players I’ve ever been around. He’s changed my perspective on build.”

WVU’s front runners all differ in that category. Greene is 5-11 and 195 pounds while both Crowder and Marchiol surpass 6 feet and 200 pounds. Crowder is listed at 6-2 and 215, while Marchiol stands 6-1 with 208 pounds on his frame. Who they are as the man behind the football player is where they are most similar.

“They all three have personalities you are drawn to and that is important,” Harrell said. “To me, the best quarterback is a guy who can make the people around him better. It doesn’t necessarily mean the most talented guy, but there’s someone who when they step on the football field, everybody else’s level of play rises because that person is out there, and that is the quarterback.”

While they haven’t had the opportunity to showcase it as a collegiate starter, each candidate possesses the qualities it takes to be the leader of the offense. Now, it’s about setting themselves apart and adapting to all that comes with their role in the process.

“You always want that guy who is the face of your program, you want them to be chameleons,” Brown said. “Regardless of what environment they are in, they can stick out and help attract others, and all three of them have that rare ability.”

As Harrell said, commanding a team and holding your fellow teammate accountable is something that comes with experience. Greene, Crowder and Marchiol each have the opportunity to earn exactly that starting March 22.