Once starter, now backup West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall walked towards the locker room in Ft. Worth, Texas, alone. The redshirt junior was not partaking in the post-game victory celebration with his teammates after their 20-17 upset win over TCU Friday night.
Was Kendall beating the traffic not only on his way off the field, but also on his way off the West Virginia University football team?
When Kendall chose Morgantown as his destination as an Oklahoma graduate transfer last winter, he did so with the intention of being the Mountaineers starting quarterback. That’s why he left Oklahoma
Kendall spent two years behind Heisman Trophy winning QBs Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He was next in line to start for the Sooners until OU coach Lincoln Riley wooed Jalen Hurts as a graduate transfer from Alabama. With the Hurts in the fold, Kendall decided his days of holding a clipboard were over.
So Kendall transferred to WVU and, as a graduate transfer, was eligible to play immediately (after public shaming forced Riley to relent and allow Kendall to play for a Big 12 conference foe).
Things went according to plan at first. Despite new WVU coach Neal Brown adding another transfer QB to the roster (in the spring Jarrett Doege from Bowling Green arrived to become the third transfer signal caller on the WVU roster), Kendall emerged from spring and summer camp as the Mountaineers starting quarterback.
Kendall started the first nine games of the season with, charitably, mixed results. WVU was 3-6 in games Kendall started. He threw for 1,989 yards for 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 61.1 percent of his passes. His QBR was 41.1, an unseemly 101st best in the country.
The fact is Brown had to replace Kendall with Doege, which he did at the end of the blowout loss to Texas Tech and the in starting lineup the next week against Kansas State. Doege went 2-1 in his three starts and showed an accuracy and pocket poise Kendall lacked. The numbers don’t lie. Doege threw for 818 yards seven touchdown and three picks with a QBR of 67.2.
Doege clearly set himself up to the the Mountaineers starter in 2020. Surely Kendall knows this. If he didn’t want to back up in Oklahoma, why would he want to in West Virginia?
As a previous graduate transfer, Kendall’s options are limited. He used his one-time graduate exemption in transferring to WVU https://www.athleticscholarships.net/ncaa-transfer-exceptions.htm. With just one year of eligibility left, transferring to another Division I school appears out.
But Kendall could, in the parlance of late Steelers Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, “get on with his life’s work.” That’s what Noll said about players who needed to retire. Kendall isn’t an NFL prospect. There is a better than even chance that Kendall hangs up the cleats.
He has a degree from Oklahoma and a year of graduate school from WVU. The prospect of getting his future career started might be more appealing than spending an entire spring, summer and fall putting in excruciating work with the likely payoff being spending the season on the bench.
Brown will try to keep Kendall in the fold. Losing him would be a big blow to the Mountaineers depth behind Doege. The 2020 season could go down in flames if Doege suffers a significant injury and Kendall leaves.
But that isn’t likely to matter to Kendall. Nor should it. Brown did what was best for him and the program when he replaced Kendall with Doege. Kendall now will do what is best for him.
He deserves to.