MORGANTOWN — University head football coach John Kelley was expecting a worst-case scenario upon losing three-year starting quarterback Clay Bailey to graduation. What he ended up with was quite the opposite.
Bailey was a proven weapon for his school, throwing more than 2,300 yards and 23 touchdowns last season, leading the Hawks to a 11-1 record and state playoff appearance.
When the all-state athlete’s time was up, Kelley began to search the roster for a replacement.
He quickly realized that he had a problem: He didn’t really have anyone who could fill the gigantic spot Bailey left on the depth chart.
That’s when Logan Holgorsen came into play.
The Bowling Green commit has spent the majority of his high school career at cross-town rival Morgantown, as well as half a season at Saint Frances Academy (Md.), and drew some Division I college offers following a 1,300-yard performance during his sophomore season with the Mohigans. This past offseason, he decided to finish out his high school career for UHS.
For Kelley, the transfer was an answer to a prayer — a proven field general who step right in to a developed system, lead the offense, and provide a reliable arm to one of the deepest assortment of receivers in Class AAA football.
“I can tell you that if we didn’t have him, we’d be developing a sophomore quarterback and be running very limited packages,” Kelley said. “Having him allows us to do what we did last year and expand upon it.”
As the old saying goes, you wouldn’t compare apples to oranges. Likewise, it’s hard for Kelley to compare Holgorsen to Bailey — he calls them “totally different players.” What’s important for Kelley is that they both can set the tone and take control.
“I’d take them both any day of the week,” he said. “They’re both coaches on the field and students of the game.”
However, there were a few pleasant surprises in store for Kelley when Holgorsen first took the turf at Mylan Pharmaceutical Stadium. The first wasn’t even regarding his arm — it was his legs.
“One thing that really surprised me with him is his running ability,” Kelley said. “I don’t think they utilized it enough at MHS.”
Holgorsen, widely regarded as a pro-style quarterback during his recruitment, isn’t often touted for speed — but he does show a certain knack for continuing plays that appear dead in the water.
“Honestly, I don’t pride myself on being fast,” Holgorsen said. “I can just keep plays alive well. That’s all that matters at quarterback.”
Another pleasant discovery for Kelley was Holgorsen’s ability to pack heat behind his passes — it’s a talent he didn’t always see present in Bailey, and one he appreciates in his quarterback.
“I think Logan throws a meaner ball than Clay did,” Kelley said. “He throws some screamers.”
Holgorsen is quicker to talk about his arm strength — it’s the facet of his game he’s worked on the hardest, one he feels he has seen drastic improvement.
“The arm strength comes with a lot of hard work. From freshman to senior year it’s night and day,” he said. “I couldn’t throw the ball 30 yards. But I got in the weight room and kept throwing balls and improving.”