Will Grier to skip West Virginia's bowl game, focus on NFL draft prep

Yahoo Sports
West Virginia QB <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/238451/" data-ylk="slk:Will Grier">Will Grier</a> will not play in the Camping World Bowl vs. Syracuse. (Getty)
West Virginia QB Will Grier will not play in the Camping World Bowl vs. Syracuse. (Getty)

West Virginia quarterback Will Grier will not play in the team’s bowl game, opting instead to focus on NFL draft prep.

Grier, a finalist for the Maxwell Award, is the first healthy high-profile quarterback to skip a bowl game to prepare for the NFL. He announced his decision through the school on Saturday. As part of the announcement, he penned a short letter to West Virginia fans.

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Dear Mountaineer Family:

 

“Since arriving in Morgantown, Jeanne and I have been welcomed into the Mountaineer Family and we, along with Eloise, have been so blessed by the support and love of so many. I hope that, in return, you know that I have given my all and worked hard each and every day to help our football program and University.

 

“While we did not win every time we took the field, and I shoulder that responsibility, I can assure you that we tried. After discussions with Jeanne and my family, and after receiving professional input, I have decided not to participate in our upcoming bowl game and focus on preparing myself and my family for what I hope is the next step in our journey. I want to thank Coach Holgorsen, Coach Spavital and all of our coaches for believing in me and, most importantly, to my teammates, who are now lifelong friends who taught me the true meaning of TEAM.

 

“It has been an honor to wear the WVU uniform, and I sincerely thank all of Mountaineer Nation for allowing my family and I to be a part of something so special. Country roads, take me home…”

 

Grier became one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football after he transferred from Florida during the 2015 season. Grier was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance and ended up leaving the Gators and going north to Morgantown.

Grier has thrown for over 7,000 yards in two seasons

He took over as West Virginia’s starting quarterback at the start of the 2017 season and threw for nearly 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns in 11 games. He suffered a broken finger against Texas and missed the team’s season finale against Oklahoma in 2017 as well as West Virginia’s appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Grier was even better in 2018. He completed 67 percent of his passes, averaged nearly 10 yards an attempt and threw for just shy of 3,900 yards in the team’s 11 games. Grier would have broken 4,000 yards passing — and been one of just four quarterbacks in college football to do so in 2018 — had West Virginia’s game against NC State not been canceled because of a hurricane.

Grier will be one of the top QBs in 2019 draft

Skipping a bowl game has become more and more common ever since Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey skipped the Sun Bowl after the 2016 season. In that game that McCaffrey missed, Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst suffered a torn ACL.

But while players like LSU CB Greedy Williams, Houston DT Ed Oliver and Oregon RB Royce Freeman have followed McCaffrey’s lead, quarterbacks have chosen to keep playing if fully healthy. UCLA QB Josh Rosen didn’t play in the team’s Cactus Bowl game a year ago though he was dealing with the after-effects from a concussion suffered on Nov. 24. Rosen was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

Grier may not be a top-10 selection. But with a muddled class of quarterbacks — there is no clear favorite at the moment — it’s understandable why he wouldn’t want to risk an injury in what’s a meaningless game for West Virginia. Grier has the opportunity to put himself in the mix for the first round with a strong set of workouts in the coming months. There’s no need to risk setting his preparation for those workouts back.

Grier could also be setting a precedent, not only for his West Virginia teammates this season but for quarterbacks going forward. It’s taken just two years for McCaffrey’s decision to go from heavily criticized to accepted and it’s easy to see how draft-eligible quarterbacks could see what Grier did and follow suit in the coming years if their teams aren’t playing in a major bowl game.

A day before Grier’s announcement, West Virginia OL Yodny Cajuste said he wouldn’t be playing in the team’s bowl game. He was an All-Big 12 selection. There’s no word yet if wide receivers Gary Jennings and David Sills will play in the Dec. 28 Camping World Bowl against Syracuse as well. The two combined for over 1,800 yards receiving and 28 touchdowns.

With Grier prepping for the NFL, Jack Allison will start for the Mountaineers against the Orange. Allison has thrown just 10 passes in 2018.

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