Why James Harden — yes, James Harden — is a model for WVU QBs

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – This spring, Neal Brown is searching for his very own James Harden.

No, Brown is not doing a coach-swap with Bob Huggins. He’s looking for a starting quarterback. And minus the bushy beard and ability to draw phantom foul calls, the NBA star embodies precisely what Brown is searching for at quarterback.

To Brown, a successful quarterback is not just a guy who can throw the ball. It’s a guy who can keep a play alive, no matter how, when things have fallen apart around him. And for a native Kentuckian, the best way to illustrate that is with a basketball analogy.

“You have your old-school point guards in basketball that, basically, all they did was distribute the ball. They came down, called the play and distributed the ball,” Brown said. “Now, you have your new-age point guards, the guys that are playing in the NBA now. Harden, he has the ball in his hands. For all intents and purposes, he’s playing point guard, but what’s he doing? He’s creating shots for others, but he’s also creating shots for himself.”

That is the same mentality Brown wants to see behind center for the Mountaineers.

“It’s the same thing for a quarterback,” Brown said. “A quarterback being a distributor all the time, that still applies, but he has to create his own, because, sometimes, we’re not going to block them all. He has to be able to create opportunities for himself, so accuracy and being able to keep plays alive [are the most important traits].”

Though it may sound like Brown prefers a dual-threat over traditional pocket passers, he noted that pro-style quarterbacks can also have the athleticism to do what he wants. Brown pointed out that Will Grier showed off a 34-inch vertical leap at the NFL combine.

“Would he be labeled as a dual-threat?” Brown asked. “I don’t know… This is how I look at it: Would you call running plays for them, or can they keep plays alive? I don’t think it’s necessary for you to actually be a running quarterback. But they have to have pocket awareness, and they have to be athletic enough to move around.”

When spring practice begins on Tuesday, all three West Virginia quarterbacks will have the chance to demonstrate that the Mountaineer mascot is not the only one in the program sharing something in common with “The Beard.”

Junior graduate transfer Austin Kendall, junior Jack Allison and redshirt freshman Trey Lowe will each spend time as QB1.

“It’s basically a three-way competition,” Brown said. “We’ll have it split up of who will be the lead guy each day. But the way we practice, they are all going to get enough reps.”

Brown feels comfortable with the approach based on his first two months interacting with the trio.

“I think all three of those guys have really worked hard this winter, and I think they’ve worked hard trying to learn schematically what we’re trying to do, and they’ve established themselves as leaders,” Brown said. “I’m excited to see how they’re going to go out and compete once the balls come out.”

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