MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even while touting the ballyard play-making ability of quarterback Skyler Howard, West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson couldn’t resist ribbing his undersized transfer.

“He’ll say he’s 6-foot, but whatever,” Dawson cracked.

Lucky for the 5-foot-11 Howard that height isn’t the overriding measurable to which Dawson prescribes. Otherwise West Virginia would not have become the first power-conference program to pitch a scholarship toward the Riverside (Calif.) City College freshman last fall. And Howard wouldn’t be preparing for an extended spring audition to become the Mountaineers’ quarterback.

MORE: WVU opens spring drills next Sunday.

Until last November, only New Mexico State and FCS doormat Northern Colorado had floated offers. Yet Howard, armed with the same self-assurance he carried when college recruiters ignored him coming out of high school in Fort Worth, felt he possessed Division I skills. What’s more, he was in the midst of a 3,000-yard juco season that proved it.

Across the continent in Morgantown, a funny bit of symmetry was transpiring when Dawson and WVU recruiting coordinator Ryan Dorchester independently perused game film from a specific pool of junior-college QB candidates. They evaluated guys who operated shotgun systems and were eligible to enroll midyear, and Howard came out No. 1 on both lists.

Soon Dawson was off to Riverside to make the dual-threat Howard an offer he wouldn’t refuse.

“I knew the offers he had,” Dawson said. “The ones that were listed, obviously we were going to beat them regardless. The ones that were showing interest in him—like Utah and Cal … I really wasn’t worried about the West Coast schools. He’s a Texas kid and he wanted to play in the Big 12.”

And for once, a Big 12 school wanted him.

No longer was Howard being eliminated simply on the basis of his non-ideal stature.

“Being 5-11, that hurts you,” Dawson admitted. “If it’s between that and a guy who’s 6-2, you’re going to go with the 6-2 guy.”

Yet as Dawson explained last week, he has long valued hand size over height when gauging a quarterback’s potential.

“Big hands mean you control the ball better,” he said. “So when I watch a quarterback throw, I look to see how far his hand stretches on the ball and where his pinky finger is on the laces.”

When Howard visited WVU in early December, Dawson took an opportunity to measure the prospect’s hands and came away encouraged. “I think his was 9-3/4 (inches) or 9-1/2, which is not bad,” the coach said. “Not bad at all for a 5-11 guy.”

As Dawson recounted this palm-reading episode, the measure-maniacs at the NFL combine were reveling in Johnny Manziel’s 9-7/8-inch mitts—atypically large for his 5-11 height. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arian said hand size remains “something that is highly underrated” among evaluators, and noted quarterbacks guru George Whitfield Jr.—who tutored Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and a pre-Heisman Manziel—told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that prodigious paws are especially beneficial for passers dealing with inclement weather.

“I’ve been saying this stuff for a few years,” said Dawson, before adding with a chortle: “Maybe I’m not as dumb as people think I am.”

He certainly will seem smarter if Howard slings touchdown passes in Morgantown like he did at Riverside. Unlike recent quarterbacks Dawson and Dana Holgorsen have developed, Howard possesses dangerous speed and blitz-beating elusiveness.

“Are we going to add a lot of new plays that are going to allow him to run it? No. But is there flexibility within our offense for him to make plays with his feet? Hell yeah, there is,” Dawson said.

“Anytime the coverage is good, then extend the play. It’s hard for DBs to cover for four or five seconds. Skyler’s an athletic kid. A lot of his bigger plays (last year) were extended plays when he kept his eyes downfield.”

Eyes certainly will gravitate toward Howard this spring, in light of senior Clint Trickett rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Those extra reps during the next five weeks could make the newcomer competitive once the full assortment of quarterback contenders assemble in August.

Whatever the result of Howard’s transition, Dawson doesn’t think height will play a determining factor.

“The O-line spits are a little wider, which allow you to see a little better, and with the spacing of offenses it probably makes height less important than it has been in the past,” he said.

“The throwing has to be the easy part. The intangibles are what pushes you over the edge. Are you a winner? Are you a leader? How much do you care about playing quarterback?”

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Comments

  • EL Supremo

    It's pleasant to see Mountaineer fans excited. However, they continue to only see the positive hype from the Sports Information Office and the media that receive FREE tickets and refreshments during the games.

    All I ask is a reality check. Start with looking at the 2014 football schedule (give specific emphasis to the first eight games). Now select the winner of those eight games. I arrived at a record of 2 wins and 6 looses, which will make Holgorsen's winning percentage .500. I think the heat in November will too hot for Luck and Holgorsen.

    • Capt. Obvious

      The 2014 football schedule will be the best and most difficult schedule WVU has ever played and I like it, win or lose.

      Dana was left with a bare cupboard and ADOL understands this thus he won't throw the baby out with the bath water, El Myopico

  • KeatonsCorner

    My sources tell me there will be a record number of ticket sales for the upcoming WVU football season...

    Get yours early. Coach Dana Holgorsen has promised us that the WVU fans will be pleasantly surprised so purchase your tickets early for the best seating.

    Its a great day to be a Mountie!

    • daddyo

      the last i heard was that there are no season tickets remaining,,, sad to hear this and happy also. i have to agree and be satisfied with certain ,particular situations and concur that it maybe time for untimely patience with the results i have found.

      • Mister Man

        Your attempt to sound intellectual failed.

    • John J

      your sources are wrong

  • David Kennedy

    Did that Palm Reader have any ideas for a new Head Coach ??? Just wondering...

    • Tyrone

      you mean who is going to replace Doc down there in your neck of the woods I think . Arent you a Marshall fan

      • David Kennedy

        Marshall who?
        Actually, I'd like to see the Doctor come back home eventually to Morgantown.

        Sent one to WVU, one to Marshall and one to Colorado State...one more and I'm finished.

  • Dave

    Big hands, runs like a deer, sees and plays the field like Doug Flutie. I say the guy has a real good chance of becoming the guy this year.

  • Kathy Jeffords

    Your senior thesis at HHS, Larry?

  • ole sasquatch

    Ole Sasquatch has said from the beginning of watching the film on Skylar Howard he would be our QB. Forget the size of the hand - watch the feet. He moves like an elf that has a life or death enthusiasm to win! Our offensive line can be as bad as last year and he will still win games for us. Glad Richard & Coach Dawson see how special this guy is. I can't understand why more of you can't see this. Maybe it's because I've spent my whole life chasing game. Yes, he is another Doug Flutie.

    • Alex

      @sasquatch like your post ...... I agree all the way. From what I've seen and heard I think this guy ( Howard )is going to be our next quarterback.

    • richard

      well, he still needs an offensive line. i don't care how good he could be-----we need a 2 deep o-line!!

  • Aaron

    I think it shows the mentality of the posters when they claim a kid who's graduated in 3 years from one University and is at his second working on a Masters Degree and has started football games at both is "mentally challenged."

    • mad hatter

      i uncur

    • Dave

      Not to mention he grew up around football his whole life,

    • mad hatter

      i get my info from watching his actions on the field... he's totally lost when dana tries to send in a new play..no wonder dana is almost bald.
      this kid has issures.

  • jay zoom

    maybe this kid can use his palms to help Oliver luck collect $20.00 in the parking lots as Dana takes his practices across and up and down the state. (KeatonsCorner get your head out of the clouds. and come down to earth. Leave the recipe alone. evidently you have the mountaineers mixed up with another football team they will never win ten games as long as their are in the big 12 Holgs is coach and Oliver Luck is in the parking lot collecting $20.00.

    • Aaron

      Your ignorance is showing. Parking hasn't been $20.00 at football for decades.

      You should be ashamed.

    • JimJim

      What's your bet? Will Dana Dude wear black at those practices, or will he wear the WVU colors?

      • KeatonsCorner

        tisk tisk, Kinzer......... on the bottle already?

    • Mister Man

      Yup. Their are in the Big 12.

  • mad hatter

    Right now, Howard is really our best chance, possibly our only chance. Who knows if Clint heals and is 100 per cent.
    But whatever, Howard, given just a little time, would easily be a better pick than Clint. Clint never did figure out the signals Dana was sending to him. He was lost the entire season, sad, but Clint is mentally challenged.

    • KeatonsCorner

      I totally disagree with your analysis and neither do I concur...

      • KeatonsCorner

        You are very observant hatter...

        Yesterday I was Aaron, today I am KeatonsCorner and GoEers.

        Tomorrow I may be steve or stevewvu or shawn or rtdeco or troll...who knows who I will be on Wednesday.

        It's what I am paid to do.

        • The Real KeatonsCorner

          weird, watching someone talk to themselves over the internet

        • Dave

          Quite comical indeed.

        • mad hatter

          and who cares

        • KeatonsCorner

          Weird is something I know something about...

          but I cannot decide if I want to stay with Dave, Aaron, The real KeatonsCorner, KeatonsCorner ll, GoEers....I confuse myself sometimes...

          Whoever I decide to be next, I love hearing myself and putting down Marshall trolls. Its what I am being paid to do.

          • daddyo

            i think aaron is the smartest of the bunch,, even though they're all the same, but aaron could probably beat out clint at the qb position, i got one hand signal that i bet aaron would understand

    • WVOMG

      Trickett being hurt is probably the best thing that happened to this team...maybe another year he will be able to learn signals.

    • GoEers

      hey what a surprise mad Hatter is bashing WVU's players again...what a sad human being you are sad hatter...if there is anyone that is mentally challenged it would certainly be you

      • KeatonsCorner

        One thing we don't do here is bash WVU players, coaches, staff, administration or team managers or school Janitors. Marshall fans however are open game. We just don't like them so we will continue to hate them till we die.

        This way we stay happy instead of sad.

        • daddyo

          ok, so is it alright to concur,,, pass the koolaid

    • JimJim

      Is that Clint's fault??? Coaching helps.

    • Truthteller

      The mad hater does not get paid for his opinions and ideas. He also has no connection with the WVU athletic department. He has no communication with the coaching staff.
      So please do not take his blabbering as a real
      valid opinion of anything worthy of a pile of doggy
      do.

  • tw eagle

    I'm somewhat excited about our new QB's, but there's still a 'fly in the ointment. As an OC Holgerson could spend lots of time with the QB's to get them to understand his mumbo-jumbo hand gyrations ... as a HC at WVU it seems it has taken the QB's 18 months or more to be able to decipher his signals. The coaching staff might have signed a Superman to play QB, but it will take two seasons of football before we, as fans, might see him on the field of play because it will take that long to learn "the magic signals" to run the offense that only takes 3 days to master.

    The fly in the ointment ain't COMMUNICATION ... the fly in the ointment is a HC with an EGO PROBLEM !!!

    • WVOMG

      Really Geno didn't have a problem picking them up or the other 6 first time starting QBs who worked with DH before...Trickett sucks and doesn't have the desire to get better.

      • Aaron

        You know the young man and his work ethics personally? How in the world does one who has no desire to get better secure D1 Scholarships at not 1 but 2 major college football institutions?

        • mad hatter

          i guess you haven't noticed how desperate we are in the qb position.. I can tell you haven't watched us play this past yr.. you should, so that when you post, you might have some slight chance of knowing what you're talking about.

        • Barry

          I like it when you defend WVU's players. You should try it with WVU's basketball players too.

          • Aaron

            I'm not defending anyone. I'm stating a fact. A young man who completes 120 or more course hours of college credit while participating in a time consuming sport is certainly not mentally challenged.

            The person making the accusation, or one who concurs with him now that's a different story.

        • scott

          exactly what i wondered about trickett all year...my guess is its his dad

      • tw eagle

        smith paid little if no attention to what the HC wanted to run . . . ergo the almost losing out on the Orange bowl . . . taking a cue from the HC , the OB went well . . . .smiths last year sucked . . . PERIOD . . .HC had no choice , there was no one beides smith to play , except the freshman Millard . . . why broadcast a problem to your opponents . . .Trickett isn't your cup of tea , WHY ? your two criticisms are wrong . . . from your posts the only thing I can glean is that you don't prefer Trickett is because he's not black . . .

  • KeatonsCorner

    Obviously, the quarterback is the most important position on the field so the Mountaineers biggest concern heading into this season is finding one. Even though the young Mountaineer QB’s appear to have what it takes, it doesn’t mean it is going to equal a consistent, productive performance.

    Is Skylar Howard the real deal? I really don't think so...I still like Trickett as being the man. Inexperience at the QB position will, without question, cost WVU in the win column.

    The quarterback situation is potentially frightening. And then there is that Big 12 schedule. To call it brutal would be an understatement…but we will be good...very good. It also should not come as a surprise when WVU defeats Alabama in the Home opener.

    However under the leadership of the offensive Guru Dana, I look for us to win 10 games and play in a major Bowl.

    So be sure and secure your season Tickets early because my sources tell me they will be selling fast.

    • The Real KeatonsCorner

      I appreciate the fact that using my user name has sparked intelligent posts around here.

      Keep it up. I may not agree, but at leas your opinion is thought out.

    • daddyo

      there is not more tickets to the jungle, Axel has bought them out and moved to a new venue

    • John J

      You are nutz, we will not win 10 games next year

      • KeatonsCorner

        Are you forgetting that coach Holgorsen stated in his press conference last week that the fans will be "pleasantly surprised"?

        My football knowledge translates that into 10 wins.

  • Mike

    Holgorsen will rise or fall based on what his QB will do. So far, his QB recruits at WVU have been a bust. Time will run out on him and his head coaching days will be over. Hoping he can find that next record-breaking QB. His job depends on it.

    • JimJim

      Two more years, right!

      • Betsey Kinzer

        settle down, Jim. It's not good at your age.

  • DP

    Welcome to WV Skyler! Mountaineer Nation certainly wishes you all the best! Lets gooooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!!!

  • richard #1

    watch the film on this guy-----he is going to be special. i say he beats out all the other qb's in the fall. if he learns the system, he will be the man to beat.

    • KeatonsCorner

      What do you mean if he can learn the system? It only takes Three (3) days to learn Dana's system.

      • Shawn

        It takes 3 days to learn the basics. You really have to spend a whole year in the system in order to grasp it 100%. Holgs won't let his QB's check too much until the second year. I'm looking for big things out of this kid and i hope he progresses into our starting QB. We need to redshirt Crest.

        • daddyo

          now you tell me,,,, and all along i thought clint was a rhodes scholar, and maybe so and maybe not, but he can't learn hand signals and he probably wants to go back to fsu and be the ball boy since he has been demoralized at wvu

        • daddyo

          just what kind of an education does fsu offer ,when good ole clint can't figure out one signal dana is passing to him,,,,underwater basket weaving??? muscle building,, koolaid stand business operation... he must have been in one of those majors

  • pghmountaineer

    It will be fun watching spring ball this year to see what Howard can do against D1 talent.
    This kid has a great opportunity given the situation with Trickett. Hopefully he'll be a pleasant suprise.

    • Grant

      I am with you on this one. I want to see what he can do at a high level. Even listening to the coaches talk about him they don't sound overly excited compared to how they talk about Crest.

      I just hope we have someone step up and clearly become the "man".

    • Aaron

      With players from Riverside City College signing with Texas Tech, Utah State, Syracuse, BYU, Idaho, New Mexico, Washington State alone, as well as Junior College transfers signing at every major school in America, I would say the young man has already faced Division 1 talent, particular given that his team was 10-2 and Conference champions.

      Junior College football is not Division FCS, D-2 or D-3 level football. Many of the recruits are top flight talent who for some reason or another are not playing D-1 football. I would venture to say that many of the JC teams could be teams from FCS, D2 and D3 on most Saturdays.

    • Aaron

      I would venture to say that JC talent, on average, exceeds FCS, D2 and D3 talent, thus the young man has already competed against D1 talent.

      • mad hatter

        i don't concur aaron, go back to huntington