Campus Connection: The History of QB Transfers

  • By John Antonik
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  • June 16, 2017 01:00 AM
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There has been a lot in the news recently about four-year quarterbacks transferring to West Virginia University.
Coach Dana Holgorsen has already had some success with former Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett under center at WVU in 2014. Trickett led the Mountaineers to a 6-2 record and a No. 20 ranking in the national polls heading into their big game against 10th-ranked TCU.
The Horned Frogs overcame a nine point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat West Virginia, 31-30, and with Trickett severely limited because of an injury he suffered during the game, WVU lost two of its remaining three regular season contests against Texas and Kansas State.
Still, Trickett performed well in the 11 games in which he appeared, completing 281-of-419 pass attempts for 3,285 yards and 18 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
And it was Trickett’s success transitioning into Holgorsen’s offense that helped him land Florida transfer Will Grier two years later in April, 2016.
Grier now becomes the most anticipated quarterback transfer to suit up for West Virginia since Jeff Hostetler pulled the Old Gold and Blue over his shoulder pads for the 1982 opener against Oklahoma in Norman.
Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen credits the former Penn State transfer’s two seasons playing quarterback at West Virginia in 1982-83 as one of the critical pieces in the transformation of the Mountaineer grid program.
However, a quick trip back in time reveals four-year quarterback transfers have frequently been an essential ingredient to West Virginia’s success through the years.
Notre Dame transfer Jake Kelchner was a valuable addition to the WVU roster in 1992, and teamed with Darren Studstill in 1993 to lead West Virginia to the Sugar Bowl appearance in New Orleans where it faced SEC champ Florida.
Miami (Florida) transfer Greg Jones started at quarterback in 1990 and provided the bridge between the Major Harris and the Studstill/Kelchner years in the early 1990s.
Michigan transfer Eric Boykin shared some time under center with Chad Johnston in 1994 as Nehlen was trying to figure out which direction he wanted his offense to go.
Ade Dillon, who began his collegiate career at Navy in 1969, transferred to West Virginia and found a place in the Mountaineer starting lineup for coach Bobby Bowden in 1973 before suffering a serious shoulder injury in a home loss to Pitt.
Then, going way back to the late 1940s after the conclusion of World War II, West Virginia had two outstanding quarterback transfers who operated coach Bill Kern’s single-wing attack: Ohio State’s Tom Keane and Pitt’s George “Bud” Freese.
Keane distinguished himself in the NFL as a defensive back and then later as an assistant coach on Don Shula’s staff with the Miami Dolphins from 1966-85.
Freese switched to baseball after his Mountaineer football career and made it to the big leagues on three different occasions with the Detroit Tigers in 1953, the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1955 and, finally, with the Chicago Cubs in 1961.
But perhaps the first four-year quarterback transfer to experience great success at West Virginia University was Charleston’s Francis “Skeets” Farley, who began his collegiate football career at VMI in 1922.
Farley played on Clarence Spears’ outstanding 1924 Mountaineer squad that was considered one of the strongest in the country with an 8-1 record and recorded notable victories over Centre, Colgate and Washington & Jefferson.
A 14-7 loss to Pitt at Forbes Field eliminated West Virginia from Rose Bowl consideration that season.
During Farley’s senior season, in 1925, he led the Mountaineers to another one-loss campaign with exceptional wins over Boston College, Penn State and Washington & Jefferson.
Again, a close defeat at Pitt was the difference in achieving perfection that season.
“His wiry, 5-10 frame packed, pound-for-pound, about as much athletic skill as anyone who ever wore a Mountaineer uniform in at least 50 years,” longtime Morgantown Post sports editor and WVU sports historian Tony Constantine wrote in 1965. “Skeets rates second only to the immortal Ira Errett Rodgers as a forward passer. He owned a great arm, and he hit his receivers with unerring accuracy.”
Speaking of Rodgers, he is sometimes mistaken as a transfer because he once attended Bethany College before playing at West Virginia University, but Rodgers attended Bethany’s preparatory school while also playing for the Bison college teams.
Local rivals made a big deal about that when Rodgers eventually enrolled at West Virginia in 1915 and began playing for the Mountaineers, opponents frequently questioning his eligibility status.
Nevertheless, as you can see, Mountaineer football has had an extensive history through the years with four-year quarterback transfers - a quite successful one at that!
And now, on to some WVU sports news and notes to take you into another steamy West Virginia weekend …

Frank Young
* My congratulations to Frank Young for his recent appointment as assistant coach on Dustin Kerns’ Presbyterian men’s basketball staff. Young spent the last three years as a basketball administrator at North Florida, helping the Ospreys to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015 and a trip to the NIT in 2016.
The Tallahassee, Florida, native was a two-year starting forward for John Beilein’s Mountaineers in 2006-07, averaging a career-best 15.3 points per game during his senior season in 2007 when the Mountaineers knocked off No. 2 UCLA at the WVU Coliseum and later defeated Clemson to win the NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
If you recall, Young played a key role coming off the bench in West Virginia’s Big East tournament run to the championship game in 2005 when starting forward Tyrone Sally was sick and unable to play against seventh-ranked Boston College.
Young stepped in for Sally and scored 14 critical points in aiding WVU to a memorable 78-72 upset over the Eagles in what was to be BC’s final game in the Big East.
Frank’s finest performance at WVU came in the second round of the 2007 NIT when he poured in 31 points in a 90-77 victory over UMass.
He finished his four-year career with 923 points and a 7.6 points-per-game average.
By my count, Young now makes five Beilein-coached Mountaineer players in the collegiate basketball coaching ranks. The others are LeMoyne College head coach Patrick Beilein, Florida assistant coach Darris Nichols, James Madison assistant coach Rob Summers and Fairmont State head coach Joe Mazzulla.
Also, Mike Gansey holds a front office position with the Canton Charge of the NBA D-League and there are several Beilein support staffers, including Drexel head coach Zach Spiker, making names for themselves in the game today.
Now you can see why those Beilein Mountaineer hoop teams were so good!
* Speaking of basketball executives, it appears Jerry West is leaving the Golden State Warriors to accept a consulting position with the Los Angeles Clippers. That news is turning LA upside down because of West’s lengthy ties to the Los Angeles Lakers organization as a hall of fame player and highly successful general manager.
In addition to his successful stint with the Lakers, West helped turn around the fortunes of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Warriors.
If Jerry can help deliver a world championship trophy to the Clippers the NBA ought to make the silhouette of its logo in West’s likeness.
Oh, wait a minute, that’s already happened …
* There was an outstanding story on former Mountaineer standout Nick Kwiatkoski in Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times with the headline “Can Kwiatkoski continue the Bears’ strong linebacker tradition?”
Nick is expected to be one of Chicago’s two starting inside linebackers this year in just his second season with the Bears.

Bria Holmes
* Former Mountaineer standout Bria Holmes is having an outstanding second season in the WNBA playing for the Atlanta Dream. The 6-foot-1-inch guard is averaging 11.7 points and 3.6 rebounds through the first nine games of the regular season.
Holmes has scored a season-high 15 points three times this year, most recently on Tuesday night when she helped the Dream defeat the Seattle Storm and former teammate Lanay Montgomery, 91-86.
The Dream currently sit in fifth place in the league standings with a 5-4 record.
* The Mountaineer baseball team saw two more of its players go in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, which concluded late Wednesday afternoon.
The Houston Astros took junior outfielder Kyle Davis in the 15th round and the Washington Nationals nabbed senior first baseman Jackson Cramer in the 35th round.
Davis and Cramer helped West Virginia to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 21 years, defeating Maryland twice to reach the regional finals against Wake Forest.
Considering what coach Randy Mazey has returning next year, particularly among his pitchers, we could be looking at one heck of a college baseball team in 2018 in Morgantown.
* Congratulations to my buddy Chad Johnston on his recent induction into the West Virginia Schools Athletic Coaches Association’s North-South Hall of Fame.
Johnston led Peterstown High to the Class A state championship in 1991 and later started three seasons at quarterback for the Mountaineers in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Chad's best season came in 1995 when he completed 127-of-248 passes for 2,019 yards and 13 touchdowns. Johnston passed for a career-high 396 yards and four touchdowns in West Virginia’s unforgettable 47-41 come-from-behind victory over Pitt in 1994.
It was Johnston’s 60-yard bomb to Zach Abraham with 15 seconds remaining that gave WVU one of its most memorable victories over the Panthers in the long history of the Backyard Brawl.
Joining Johnston in this year’s North-South Hall of Fame class is another inductee with WVU ties, Homer Criddle, who played halfback for the late Gene Corum in the early 1960s.
The Huntington native was a distinguished high school coach who led three different schools to Class 3A state championship games - South Charleston, St. Albans and Greenbrier East. Criddle coached WVU standout running back Robert Alexander, the nation’s No. 1 rated running back recruit in 1976, while at South Charleston.
Indeed, Johnston and Criddle are two worthy inductees!
* My belated congratulations to our very own Keli Cunningham and Nathaniel Zinn on their recent wedding at Nemacolin Resort. Mr. and Mrs. Zinn sure know how to put on a first-class party, that’s for sure!

Gary Jennings
* Junior wide receiver Gary Jennings continues to fulfill his commitments as one of two Big 12 student-athlete representatives on the NCAA Oversight Committee. Jennings was in Nashville, Tennessee, last January in meetings offering player input on issues related to college football.
Jennings said he is pleased that his voice is being heard.
“It felt good because of the gravity of the situation and the things we were talking about and knowing they actually want some input from the players,” he said.
Oklahoma’s Khadeem Lattin is the Big 12’s student-athlete representative on the basketball oversight committee.
* A big belated happy birthday to the dulcet-toned Dan Zangrilli, our No. 2 play-by-play man and pregame host of the Mountaineer Tailgate Show on Saturdays before WVU football games.

Kadeisha Buchanan
* And finally, West Virginia University administrators Keli Zinn, Terri Howes and Shannon McNamara will fly out to Los Angeles with WVU coach Nikki Izzo-Brown to take part in the Collegiate Women’s Sports Awards, presented by Honda, on Monday, June 26.
Former Mountaineer standout Kadeisha Buchanan will be recognized that evening. The event will be televised live on CBS Sports Network beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
Buchanan won the MAC Hermann Trophy as women’s college soccer’s top player and was also recognized as the national player of the year by espnW and TopDrawerSoccer.com.
Congratulations Kadeisha!
Have a great weekend everyone!