Mountaineers’ Grier has stage to himself among Big 12 QBs

MORGANTOWN — WVU head football coach Dana Holgorsen has something that many of his counterparts in the Big 12 will not have heading into this season — an experienced quarterback.

Not only is Mountaineers signal-caller Will Grier one of the few returning starters in the conference, but he also has that superstar trait that many coaches in the Big 12 had in their QBs prior to last season.

At this point in 2017, Oklahoma had Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma State had Mason Rudolph, TCU had Kenny Hill and Texas Tech had Nic Shimonek.

Now, all of those players are gone, with Mayfield and Rudolph projected to be early picks in this week’s NFL draft.

Holgorsen named Grier the starter for WVU before fall camp began, but he wasn’t a proven commodity like the aforementioned.

Baylor, Texas, Kansas, Iowa State and Kansas State transitioned to new quarterbacks during the season, but are in the midst of QB battles throughout spring camp that will last into the summer.

Grier may be the only de facto No. 1 QB in the Big 12 this season.

“It feels good to be on this side of it,” Holgorsen said during Tuesday’s spring football media conference call. “I think we had, like, six or seven of those guys last year at other schools, so it’s nice to be on the other side.”

NEW FOR RILEY

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley had about as good a first season as any coach can last year, replacing long-time Sooners coach Bob Stoops.

O.U. went to the College Football Playoff and fell to Georgia, in the Rose Bowl. but Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy along the way.

Riley did not become the head coach of the Sooners until early June, when Stoops unexpectedly stepped down, so this spring was his first as a head coach.

“We kind of did things backward. I went through the whole season and now I’m going through my first spring,” Riley said. “There were some things that were new, especially going through some of the rule changes and with recruiting. It’s been good and it’s been smooth, and it’s been nice to think about some of the different decisions you’ll have to make this time of year.”

DEFENSIVE RAIDERS

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury went into the 2017 season on the hot seat because no matter how good his offenses were, his defenses were, he admitted, putrid in comparison.

While still not good, the Red Raiders went from dead last in FBS, at 128th, in total defense — allowing 554.3 yards per game — to 105th last season, allowing 443.8 yards.

That’s a significant improvement from what was considered one of the worst defenses ever, statistically.

“We feel like we made some more steps with our defensive unit,” Kingsbury said. “We like where we’re at and we know it’ll be a challenge in the Big 12 with some dynamic offenses. I like the steps we made this spring with most of our starters, staff and [defensive coordinator David] Gibbs back for his fourth year. We feel like we made some strides.”

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