Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

West Virginia quarterback William Crest’s deployment as a punt returner this week has evolved into an intriguing preseason topic.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — William Crest used to catch practice punts at Dunbar High to stay active. Whether he actually gets the chance to return punts at West Virginia has become an intriguing topic of preseason camp.

Dana Holgorsen joked Thursday that he sent Crest with the punt returners just “to mess with you guys” in the media, but it actually was Crest himself who joined the special-teamers during down moments.

When Holgorsen noticed the four-star quarterback fielding punts at West Virginia’s first practice, the  coach said, “I’ll be darned if he didn’t look pretty good.”

So the experiment continues, though it is an experiment dependent upon many factors—including Crest’s development at quarterback, his potential for a redshirt, and the performance of other returners like Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson.

Special-teams coach Joe DeForest also tried comic diversion when asked about how Crest’s reps at punt returner correlate to his status under center.

“That’s above my pay grade,” he said.

Yet amid the winks, nudges and vagueries, DeForest rationalized why deploying Crest on punt returns isn’t a complete waste of precious practice minutes:

“Anytime you can get the ball in the hands of one of your better athletes, why not? Why not take advantage of all the weapons have?”

Holgorsen took the Crest hypothetical a step further:

“Would it be an option if he was the best (punt returner)? Absolutely. Now if he was our starting, every-down quarterback right now, that would be pretty silly.”

At the risk of being extremely silly and trying to read between the lines, perhaps this whole episode reveals Crest isn’t a candidate to win the backup quarterback job behind Clint Trickett. Perhaps Paul Millard’s senior-level grasp of the offense outweighs the obvious physical advantages Crest brings. Maybe Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson think the freshman is a couple months away from any point of game-readiness. Maybe they’re already committed to redshirting Crest and see no harm in an athletic exercise for a visibly athletic quarterback.

DeForest emphasized a mental perk—that returning punts presents a “fear factor” similar to a quarterback feeling a blind-side blitzer. Aside from that, hauling in Nick O’Toole’s high-hanging kicks can only help with Crest’s hand-eye coordination.

“Ball skills for a quarterback is important,” Holgorsen said, “just try catching snaps from Pat Eger.”

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  • higs

    It would be worth another year of Trickett and Millard to have a year older Crest. We stunk so bad last year, waiting another year for a good team will be worth the wait! However, if Trickett can survive Alabama healthwise, we may have a winning season. They assume him to be a brittle QB and will go after him, as all will do. I hope we wait until next year for Crest, no matter what happens to the other QBs.

  • Ole Sasquatch

    About the first I've seen of Crest - Does look like an athlete.

  • WVSU

    Crest is gonna be a beast next year under center

  • WVU Fan

    For all those thinking Crest will red-shirt, it's not happening. Why? Because this leaves too many QB's that will be in the same class. Not good for recruiting.

  • Punt Raid

    Didn't they used to call that offense Air Raid?

    My, how the mighty have fallen.


    Can't imagine WVU wasting a redshirt on Crest by having him field punts. If he is not the clear cut #2 QB, red-shirt him and start fresh with him in 2015.

  • VaultHunter

    Its just like when you were kids and played sandlot. One or two kids were always good at everything. Crest is one of those.

    Glad he is at WVU.

  • Daniel Williams

    In 1996 at Glenville State, Rich Rod used Wilkie Perez, who was the number 2 QB at the time as the punt returner, so there is a precedent. It could work out fine, just as it did at Glenville. The following year as the number 1 QB Wilkie set numerous records for the Pioneers.

  • any major dude

    Sounds about right, wvu_93

  • wvu_93

    He is going to redshirt so all of the qb reps will go to Trickett and Millard. This keeps him involved with practice and let's him get to know his teammates.

  • any major dude

    One of Bill Stewart's weaknesses as a coach was a reluctance to use starters as punt returners, for fear of injury. Almost every other coach
    in the country uses regulars as kick returners, including DH. While injuries can rear their ugly heads at any time, you can't coach based on fear. While I remain skeptical of Crest as a kick returner, if he's not used this way, it won't be out of fear.

    • Jim

      That was because there was no depth built into the team. Bill was a great coach, sure, but didn't recruit worth a hill of beans.

  • Dave

    It gives the media something to speculate on. Keeps them guessing. But anyone with a brain bigger than a pea would know Crest won't be returning punts.

    • Mister Man


  • DWM

    If they have him fielding punts once the live bullets start flying it will mean one thing: He doesn't have a future as WVU's quarterback.

    Why risk next year's starter to a season ending knee or shoulder injury returning punts and that might keep him from what will be a very important spring practice next year.

    • Mister Man

      He didn't get touched.

  • Oldster

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • Mister Man


  • Mister Man

    I think everyone knew why he was fielding punts. It's a good idea to keep him active. It, also, gives him a chance to get familiar with teammates.