Now that Pat White is off to the National Football League, what happens to West Virginia University's football team, especially at quarterback?
We would all like to know the answer to that question, but we will have to wait five or six months to have the ability to answer that question. For now though, speculation is the order of the day.
The football team should be fine, but many questions are still unanswered stemming from the new coaching transition experienced last year. Last year new head man Bill Stewart was often criticized for his tendency to gush over his team when, perhaps, more of a stern hand seemed to be in order. Then there were some instances where his game management was questioned by the Monday morning quarterbacks.
Then there was the introduction of new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen to the staff. When Stewart assembled his new staff, he was able to bring in many highly qualified assistants with ties to the Mountaineer program. Mullen wasn't one of them. Mullen came from Wake Forest as quarterback coach. He was new to the coordinator position at this level. That was fine, by most accounts Mullen was a rising star.
When the season started what was supposed to be a high powered West Virginia offense looked very average. That was unsettling to Mountaineer fans who thought the return of White, Noel Devine and the entire offensive line would overshadow the loss of Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and Darius Reynaud.
The loss of those players can't be overstated. What Mullen was doing with the new offense didn't look a lot different than what Richard Rodriguez had been doing, but the change was enough to slow the process. The blocking schemes changed and the line had difficulty in short yardage situations. In the line's defense, the absence of Schmitt's blocking and running on short yardage plays was a huge factor missing in the equation.
Then there was the tweaking of White's overall game. He was being asked to have more of a pocket presence. To the untrained eye it just looked like Pat White struggled to get totally comfortable in the pocket. Being a very coachable player, White worked at becoming better at it. Many attribute Mullen's tutelage of White with the athlete being a recent second round quarterback selection in the NFL draft. The school of thought is White may not have gotten a look at quarterback without accepting some of the changes Mullen wanted.
Still, for most of the season White ended up winning games with his legs, or by making plays out of the pocket. By the time WVU played in the December Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, Pat White looked like a very good pocket passer.
Now Mullen will turn the offense over to senior quarterback Jarrett Brown. No player may ever be able to put the team on his back the way White did, but Brown is an intriguing player. Brown has experience as three year backup to White. He has two career starts and plentiful meaningful snaps since White was often nursing injuries sufficient enough to keep him sidelined from time to time. Brown is 2-0 as a starter.
There is a lot to like about Brown. First of all he patiently waited behind White for his chance to play. Brown bided his time by playing as a sophomore for Bob Huggins and the Mountaineer basketball team. Last year he got some plays at fullback, an experiment which had him dinged at an inopportune time. He is 6-3, 225 and has a cannon for an arm. He looks as though he throws 40 yard darts with the flick of his wrist. He is the ideal quarterback for Mullen and the offense he wants to implement.
Brown can run too. Pat White was only a little faster than Brown who runs a 4.6 40. Obviously not as elusive as White, Brown will physically punish defenders if he chooses to lower his shoulder in the open field.
The Achilles Heel here?
West Virginia is woefully thin at quarterback, so don't expect to see Brown looking to run over opposing linebackers. Brown's backup on the depth chart coming out of spring practice is starting wide receiver Brad Starks. Redshirt freshman Coley White apparently is not ready to assume the backup role at this juncture. Highly regarded incoming freshman Geno Smith will get every chance to earn the number two spot in August. Odds of having a true freshmen effectively playing at this level aren't great. Depth at QB is probably the biggest concern going into fall camp.