Football, Sports, WVU Sports

COLUMN: Brown preparing for a QB war instead of a QB battle

Get ready to dig trenches, secure rations and hunker down for a while, because WVU’s starting quarterback competition sounds like it’ll be more of a war than a simple battle.

The combatants are junior Garrett Greene and redshirt-freshman Nicco Marchiol, the theater is WVU’s practice facility and the prize is being the Mountaineers’ starting signal-caller when the team opens the 2023 season in Happy Valley.

“This is going to be a deal where it’s going to be long,” head coach Neal Brown said on Thursday. “Even if one goes on a hot streak for a week, we’re not going to make our decision based off one hot week. This is going to be a deal that goes through the summer and into fall camp.”

After bringing in the likes of Austin Kendall, Jarret Doege and JT Daniels from outside of the program to be the team’s starters in recent years, Brown made the deliberate decision to not pursue a transfer quarterback this off-season, opting instead to let Greene and Marchiol battle it out.

“At decision-making time at the end of (last) year, watching them over the last three or four weeks I felt really good about what direction we needed to go and with the direction we needed to go, we had two really, really good candidates,” he said. 

Greene became more involved during the last four games of last season and started the final two. Marchiol came on in relief of an injured Greene in the season-finale at Oklahoma State and led the Mountaineers to a win.

“Through (spring) nine practices, it’s really confirmed my thoughts from back then,” Brown said. “They’re up and down as far as competition, but it’s going to be a long approach. This is going to be something where we look at spring practice in its entirety and then we carry it into summer, then through the first couple of weeks of fall camp.”

Brown described Greene and Marchiol as having similar skills, but different styles of play.

“They have some of the same characteristics and ability as a dual-threat,” Brown said. “Nicco’s more of a strong runner and Garrett’s more of a fast runner. They’re both really talented, but they’re both inexperienced.”

The decision to not bring in a transfer and the return of WVU’s starting offensive line and running backs led Brown to re-think the team’s offense for this season. With running backs coach Chad Scott promoted to offensive coordinator, the Mountaineers are going to focus more on running the ball than ever before.

“Did we hit a button and just blow up everything that we’ve done? No, that’s not what we’ve done,” Brown said of the offensive change. “What we’ve done is, we’ve looked at the two quarterbacks competing and we said ‘what are their strengths and what are their talents and how can we best utilize their talents?’ We’ve gone out and packaged the things that we feel like they do the best and that’s what we’re going to do.”

No matter which one wins the job, it will buck a long-running trend for WVU quarterbacks. In his start against Kansas State last season, Greene became the first high school recruit to start a game under center for WVU since Ford Childress in 2013. 

When he or Marchiol starts against Penn State, they will be the first high school recruit to start a WVU season-opener since Paul Millard did so ten years ago against William & Mary on Aug. 31, 2013.

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