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West Virginia names Austin Kendall starting quarterback for 2019

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Austin Kendall got the job he came to West Virginia for.

Mountaineers coach Neal Brown announced Tuesday that Kendall, the graduate transfer from Oklahoma, will be West Virginia’s starting quarterback for the season opener against James Madison on Aug. 31.

“It was clear after Friday night’s scrimmage that he has earned it,” Brown said on Tuesday.

Brown said the evaluation was based on every snap from the quarterbacks since the start of spring practice. Kendall was competing against Jack Allison and Trey Lowe. Allison is currently the No. 2 quarterback.

“Austin won the job. I’m not sure anyone lost it,” Brown said. “That doesn’t change the way I feel about the other guys. I believe in Jack Allison. He’s got skills that can be in our league and be productive.

“I’m pleased with Trey Lowe’s progress. Jarret Doege never factored in to the competition. Long-term, it is better for him to redshirt. Offseason surgery slowed him down a little bit.

“We’ll keep them all active and engaged and ready if we need them to be.”

Kendall graduated from Oklahoma in three years, which he spent backing up eventual Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Kendall was displaced as the Sooners potential next starter when Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts enrolled at Oklahoma this winter.

“He went through this song-and-dance before,” Brown said. “He’s gone through the whole transfer piece, so he’s dealt with that too. He’s handled it well. The thing he’s done as well as could be imagined is earning the respect of his team. He’s done a good job of interacting.”

Kendall’s demeanor is among the traits that impress Brown.

“He’s been calm and collected. He’s felt himself getting more comfortable and playing at a higher level,” Brown said. “You can coach him hard and he doesn’t take it personal. He’s gone about entering a difficult situation and really impressing his teammates.

“Now, he’s got to prepare like a starting quarterback.”

Other starters named

Brown named another graduate transfer as a starter Tuesday. Josh Growden, the punter from LSU, is confirmed as West Virginia’s starting holder.

“I suspect that won’t get as much press as my other announcement,” Brown noted.

Growden was LSU’s starting holder for field goals the past three years, including on a game-winning kick against Auburn last season.

And while the Mountaineers will still have a regular rotation at running back, senior Kennedy McKoy has established himself at the top of the pecking order.

“Kennedy’s gotten a lot stronger in 6-7 months,” Brown said. “He gets vertical very well. He can get his shoulders going north and south extremely quick. He has very few negative runs. [Monday] he did great on a couple blitz pickups. If he can stay healthy, he’s sitting on a big year.”

Offensive line still being evaluated

Left guard Mike Brown has been praised throughout camp, and appears to have elevated himself to a position of trust nearly on the same plane as all-Big 12 veterans Colton McKivitz and Josh Sills.

“He has a great skill set,” Neal Brown said of Mike Brown, who is of no relation. “He has the potential. He moves laterally well.

“Part of the reason I talk about him is it’s sort of an incredible story. Never played a down of high school football, and now he’s here in Morgantown, W.Va. from Compton, Calif. ready to start in the Big 12. To show he belongs has been impressive for me.”

Kelby Wickline has sealed the right tackle spot. The search continues for the fifth starting lineman.

It may be junior college transfer John Hughes at right guard next to Sills at center. Or it could be Chase Behrndt, who began camp as the starting center and has since practiced at guard. There’s also a chance Adam Stilley gets the nod at center, keeping Sills at right guard.

Brown shares condolences

Brown began his press conference by sharing his condolences for the family of Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson. Brown coached against Anderson in the Sun Belt Conference.

Anderson’s wife, Wendy, died Tuesday morning following a long battle with breast cancer. She was 49 years old.

“My thoughts and prayers go to my good friend Blake Anderson on the passing of his wife,” Brown said. “Sad day. I’m thinking about Blake and his three kids. She fought hard, a valiant fight. She had beaten breast cancer once, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been thinking about their whole family for awhile now.”

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