When it was announced in January 2019 that Austin Kendall would be making his way to Morgantown, the consensus among Mountaineer Nation was that he would be the quarterback to set the foundation for The Climb. However, this idea died out after just nine games into the Neal Brown era. Kendall was benched in favor of Doege for the matchup against Kansas State, and never saw the field again. Even though Kendall was the center of excitement with the quarterback competition, the writing was on the wall sooner than most fans realize.
Throughout much of the 2019 spring practice session, Head Coach Neal Brown voiced his displeasure with the quarterback position. Brown even went as far to peg walk-on quarterback Trent Jackson as playing the best out of the four potential candidates. Though this went unnoticed for most fans, this was a clear indication that Austin Kendall was struggling to get a hold on the quarterback job. The signs would on continue to get worse for Kendall.
In June 2019, Bowling Green Quarterback Jarret Doege announced that he would be transferring to West Virginia to play for Neal Brown. Much like Kendall, Doege had ties to Brown through way of his brother. When a player decides to transfer, they choose their new home with the idea that they will immediately become the starting quarterback. While this was not the case for Doege, it would be foolish to say that there were no underlying doubts about Kendall in Brown’s mind. Had the Oklahoma transfer had a strong grasp on the starting job coming out of spring, then in all likelihood Brown would have informed Doege, resulting in his transfer elsewhere.
Despite all of the red flags throughout the offseason, things did not improve for Kendall once the regular season kicked off. His play left many Mountaineer fans frustrated, most notably a four-interception performance against the Texas Longhorns. The most exasperating aspect of Kendall’s game came through the way of the deep pass. Often the passes were severely underthrown, resulting in multiple interceptions and stalled drives. In order to compete in the Big 12, a vertical passing game is a necessity. Offenses in the league are simply too potent to lack in any area on that side of the ball. Once the downfield passing game opened up after Doege was inserted in the lineup, it was apparent Kendall was the problem the whole time. With the struggles of the offensive line and running game in 2019, the struggling passing game with Kendall held the offense almost completely back.
Kendall is a serviceable quarterback, but not a starter. He will suffice as a backup quarterback for the 2020 season. Head Coach Neal Brown will push the narrative that the quarterback competition is open, but in truth it is Doege’s to lose. From hype to calling for his benching, the Austin Kendall experiment is certainly a bust.