MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There was no grand announcement when West Virginia’s coaching staff told Austin Kendall he was going to be the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback.
“After dinner, they were like ‘You’re going to be the starter,’” Kendall said of how coaches broke it to him following West Virginia’s second preseason scrimmage.
The business-like atmosphere was perfectly suited to Kendall’s demeanor. Kendall spoke of being excited to finally have the chance to start, but did so with an inflection reminiscent of Ben Stein calling on Ferris Bueller in class.
Though he spent three seasons at Oklahoma behind the brash Baker Mayfield and the dynamic Kyler Murray, Kendall is considerably more understated.
“He’s cool and he’s calm,” said co-offensive coordinator Matt Moore.
That attitude served Kendall well in the quarterback competition, which he finally won after falling short at Oklahoma last season.
“I didn’t have any doubts,” Kendall said. “I knew if I put my best foot forward every day, even if I had a bad day, not to live in the past. Keep progressing every day.”
For Kendall, the biggest progress since being named starter has been vocal. Left tackle Colton McKivitz said the quarterback is more assertive now.
“He was always trying to be that leader in the huddle getting guys going. But since he’s been named the starter he’s really taken control of the huddle [as well as] being the leader up front,” McKivitz said. “He’s getting guys going quicker if we need to go faster. He’s kind of stepped into his own and taken charge, really.”
Moore, who also coaches West Virginia’s offensive line, agrees that Kendall has been less timid when it comes to bossing the big guys around.
“I’ve seen him talk a lot more to offensive line, get on them,” Moore said. “When they’re out there practicing, they don’t want to get down in their stance. They want to stand up. He’ll say ‘Get down, get down in your stance. Be ready.’ He’s taking a more vocal leadership role over the past week.”
For Kendall, Saturday’s game won’t be his first college start. Last year the Sooners benched Murray for the opening series against Baylor because Murray overslept and arrived late to practice the Thursday before the game.
Kendall technically led Oklahoma to one first down – courtesy of being hit late – before the Sooners punted.
“They muffed the punt and Ky went in and threw a touchdown,” Kendall said with a chuckle.
He’s hoping for a more lasting experience this time around, and credits his former teammates and coach for setting the example that will allow him to do so.
“They approached every week like, ‘I’m not the starter. I’m going to learn it,’” Kendall said. “Coach Riley taught me that through [the example of] Tom Brady. Brady went in and thought ‘I’ve never learned this play before, I’m going to learn it like it’s new to me.’ I’ve learned that you approach each play in practice as if you’ve never seen it before.”