West Virginia’s Crest perseveres through struggles of college football

MORGANTOWN — Tyron Carrier asks his players to refer to one of his wide receivers if homesickness, or any doubt for that matter, starts to creep in.

“Will Crest hasn’t been in my room for long, but he’s a guy anyone can talk to about the ups and downs of being a college athlete,” Carrier said. “Sometimes kids get homesick during camp and he’s been there for the guys. He’s been around for some time now so he knows what it’s like to play here.”

And what a career it’s been. While the on-field production surely isn’t what many expected when Crest signed with the Mountaineers in 2014, he found other ways to contribute across three positions on offense.

As a four-star quarterback recruit from Baltimore’s Dunbar High — the same school as Tavon Austin — many thought Crest was the heir-apparent to Clint Trickett and the first major high school recruit Dana Holgorsen was able to sign.

After winning the backup job as a true freshman, Crest injured his shoulder and received a medical redshirt, missing the rest of the season. In the meantime, Skyler Howard replaced Trickett and wound up winning the starting QB job the next two years.

As a sophomore, Crest was the backup to Howard, but the transition started to get Crest involved in other ways. His one and only career catch was in the Cactus Bowl win against Arizona State — a nine-yard reception.

Then, a junior, the transformation was complete. Chris Chugunov won the backup quarterback spot and Crest was moved to running back, receiver and became a contributor on special teams.

He even moved to safety on the defensive side and recorded nine tackles during the 2016 season.

The once highly touted signal-caller now struggled to find any niche to stick, which caused him to look elsewhere in January 2017 Holgorsen announced Crest was leaving the program to pursue a spot at an FCS program.

In May, though, Crest rethought his decision and decided to stay at West Virginia with two years of eligibility remaining. Last season, he added depth at inside receiver but did not see game action.

Entering his fifth year in the program, Crest has played four positions and even switched from offense to defense, played in 19 games and even left the program for four months.

But he’s stuck with it, and that’s something offensive coordinator Jake Spavital hopes pays off for Crest this season.

“He’s just ready for anything and can play all those positions and keeps learning, so if his number’s called, he’s gonna go in there and be ready to give us something,” Spavital said. “It’s a great story — there’s a lot of ups and downs in this profession and just playing in general. He’s handled them well and he’s battled back.

“I’d love to see him have some success this year.”

As for his on-field contributions, the coaching staff believes this has been his best offseason so far.

“From what everyone has told me, this was his best spring since he’s been here and he’s had a good camp so far,” Carrier said. “We’ve got a couple more weeks to go and we’ll see how this unfolds for him.”

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