MORGANTOWN — In many ways, Neal Brown has not acted like someone who is on the hot seat.
Although a mediocre showing in 2023 could very likely cost him his job, Brown has kept things status quo entering his fifth season at WVU. He hasn’t looked for any quick fixes or shortcuts to take the Mountaineers back into the top half of the Big 12, instead sticking to his guns and doubling down on his belief in recruiting and developing in-house talent.
That includes bucking a decade-long trend at quarterback as Brown publicly stated the team would not be in the market for a transfer signal-caller this offseason, instead trusting the guys who are already on the roster to get the job done.
Those in-house quarterbacks, junior Garrett Greene and redshirt-freshman Nicco Marchiol, feel the trust Brown has in them and are looking to repay it this season.
“It means everything,” Marchiol said after participating in a Country Roads Trust youth football camp Friday morning. “I committed to Neal, Neal was the reason I came here, I trusted him, I trusted his belief in his system. For him to say they’re not going to bring someone honestly takes a lot more stress off us. If he believes in us, then all we have to do now is execute.”
WVU has started a transfer at quarterback in every season since 2013, including in all four under Brown thus far. The last time WVU had a high school recruit make every start in a season was when Geno Smith started all 13 games in 2012. That will change this year as Greene and Marchiol continue to battle for the starting spot.
“I always know that Neal has trust in me,” Greene said. “Even if he did (bring in a transfer), me and Nicco are confident in our abilities to that (the starter) would be one of us.”
Greene appears to be the frontrunner for the job given the edge he has in experience, entering his fourth season versus Marchiol’s second, and how much he worked with the first-team offense during spring practice. This is the first time in Greene’s career that he’s had a real chance to compete for the starting spot, previously backing up transfers Jarret Doege and JT Daniels.
“I feel really good about where I’m at, feel really good about where the offense is at,” Greene said. “It’s all about putting the pieces together and continuing to work.”
It’s also the first time that Greene has felt like the ‘old man’ in the quarterback room.
“It’s kind of a whirlwind,” he admitted. “People aren’t lying when they say you blink and it’s gone. I’m entering my fourth season here and it left like I was just a freshman a few months ago.”
Greene made his first career start at the end of 2022, starting the final two games of the season. Before then, his playing time had mostly come in the form of pre-planned packages or plays, short stays on the field designed to utilize his running ability. In fighting for the starting nod, Greene has said goodbye to gimmicks and has taken on the responsibilities of orchestrating the entire offense.
“There hadn’t been any packages (this offseason),” Greene said. “They’ll add plays for me on gameday but it’s up to me just to run the gameplan, whatever that is. If that’s me throwing the ball 50 times a game or it’s me throwing the ball 20 times a game and running it, it’s just up to me to run the offense and go from there.”
While Greene has been working on transitioning from a useful gadget player to an all-around quarterback, Marchiol has been trying to change from a wide-eyed freshman into a true college competitor.
“When you get here, it’s almost like you start back at your freshman year of high school, it’s a total reset,” Marchiol said. “You come in and you are unconsciously incompetent is the way I like to think about it. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Although he dressed on gamedays, Marchiol sat for much of 2022 until he was thrust into action in the team’s finale at Oklahoma State.
“Experience is the best way of gaining confidence,” Marchiol said. “The more reps I get, the more experience I have with this offense and the guys around me, the more confidence I have every day.”
Even though the two are competing for the same job, there have been no hard feelings between the pair. Quite the opposite, actually.
“He’s one of my closest friends, we play golf all the time,” Greene said. “We have a good balance of keeping the sports on the field and then being friends off the field.”
“I think the relationship we have is so awesome, so beneficial to both of us,” Marchiol added. “We understand that it’s a competition, we keep the fire and go back and forth sometimes in the weight room and the locker room, then when it’s time to work, it’s time to work…It’s always great to have this competition, it makes both of us better and it makes the team better.”
In addition to a new starting quarterback, the Mountaineers will also debut a new, run-first offensive philosophy this season under first-year offensive coordinator Chad Scott.
“We’re off to a really, really good start with the offense,” Marchiol said. “The things we’re trying to do this year are stretch the ball downfield, be good in the run game and be an explosive offense. We have all the keys to do that so the last thing to do is just to execute.”
“We have the pieces of the puzzle,” Greene affirmed, “now we just have to go out and do what we know how to do.”