Austin Kendall is finally getting his shot.
After an offseason transfer saga and a position battle that waged through spring ball and fall camp, head coach Neal Brown officially named Kendall West Virginia’s week one starting quarterback on Tuesday.
A lot has changed for Kendall over the last several months. He went from backing up Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray at Oklahoma to joining a new program and having to earn his place all over again.
Brown thinks the experience of competing against Murray and Baker Mayfield, another Heisman winner at Oklahoma, helped him mature.
“You gotta remember, he’s went through this song and dance before,” Brown said. “They had a competition [at Oklahoma] — I’ve never even asked him how the competition went last year. I don’t believe [Sooners head coach] Lincoln [Riley] named a starter until about the same time last year, so he’s gone through that.”
Brown said he has learned a lot about Kendall since he began working out with the Mountaineers last spring. He now knows that the redshirt junior stays calm under pressure, takes ownership of his mistakes and is highly competitive.
That competitive nature helped Kendall win the starting job, but in Brown’s mind, it’s his maturity that sets him apart.
“He’s gone about his business,” Brown said. “The thing I think he’s probably done as well as could have been imagined is earning the respect of his team.”
That might have been the toughest challenge Kendall faced after joining the Mountaineers as a graduate transfer last winter. Not only did he have to prove himself as a quarterback, he had to navigate the potentially difficult task of earning the trust of his new teammates while battling to become WVU’s starter.
Ultimately, Kendall overcame that challenge.
“He came in, didn’t say a whole lot, went to work, let his work ethic and level of preparation show how important it was to him,” Brown said. “He’s done a good job with interacting with all aspects of our football team, so I think he’s done a really good job.”
Kendall may have earned the right to be West Virginia’s starting quarterback in week one, but both he and the Mountaineers still have a lot to prove as a new era of WVU football continues.
Now, it’s on to a new challenge.
“He understands it’s just the beginning,” Brown said. “He won the starting quarterback job but he hasn’t won a game yet. You kind of check one box and move onto the next.”