The game of football has evolved over the past ten to fifteen years. The advent of the spread offense has trickled into the high school game and become notably evident. As with most new theories or inventions, it starts at higher levels and slowly makes its way down to others as they begin to experiment with their own thoughts and ideas. The beginning of this new evolution truly came from a product of our own state with Rich Rodriguez bringing the read option to the forefront beginning at Glenville State in the 90s and bringing it to national relevancy at WVU. The spread offense was around before then as well, in various forms of the run and shoot that Mouse Davis and June Jones evolved in their various stops around the nation.
That evolution came to West Virginia, probably slower than any other state around, but to say it’s not here to stay would be completely false. It’s harder to find teams on Friday nights that do not run some form of the spread offense, even those who have been forever known to be smash mouth type teams; they now include a spread package in their repertoire. The first teams to really bring the offense to the state were those of the late 90’s Nitro teams especially with the ones led by JR House. House would put up 69 points in the state championship game over Morgantown in 1997. Since then, more teams have experimented with the spread, with many of these schools becoming systematic programs that breed players directly for their offense. Many of these schools found success in the early years of this offensive revolution and defenses struggled to adapt. Now, it would be not be far off to say that the majority of the schools in the state either run one of two systems. The first is a form is a variation of the Wing-T; the other is a form of the spread.
With more and more schools moving toward the spread offense over past decade. We are seeing the fruits of those new ideas coming to be. We are seeing better, more efficient, and an overall higher quantity of quality quarterbacks around the state. More emphasis is made to the position and the growth of 7 on 7 play with the June practice period has had much to do with that growth as well. 8 out of the last 9 State Champions in Triple A have been a version of the spread, and if you consider what Wheeling Park does as Pro-Style Spread, then it would be 9 out of 9. Each one of those teams have had absolute studs at the quarterback position with names like Tyler Harris (South Charleston) and Tyree Pratt(Capital) who both won Kennedy Awards in their respective years.
This year has a group of quarterbacks who have proven themselves on the field and are gathering large looks from colleges around the country. It’s tough to think of a time where the quarterback position has had this much depth and quality within the Mountain State. A few of these kids already have state titles on their resume and Division 1 offers on the table. This list is in no means a ranking in which one is the best, as we each have a choice of which one we would take. Each of them has a different structure and a different game; they each offer different qualities from the others. It makes it fun to debate which one you would take because they are different in their own ways but they are very much gifted as well.
- Grant Wells – The George Washington QB comes in with a large amount of pressure, but that is something that he has felt since he stepped on campus for Steve Edwards Jr. Playing right into their spread attack, Wells threw for over 2,200 yards and 26 touchdowns as a Sophomore, adding another 530 yards on the ground. Measuring in at 6’1, 175, Wells has received two Division 1 offers from Marshall and UNC Charlotte. He has also been busy this summer visiting Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
- Cross Wilkinson – The 2018 Class Toledo commit comes to put on a huge senior season. With a state championship underneath his belt in the form of a state title in 2015, Wilkinson looks to solidify himself as the top quarterback coming out of the state. Another Pro-Style Quarterback on the list, he measures in at 6’3, 205. Pulling around 8 Division 1 offers, Cross is rated as a 3 Star recruit by Rivals. His stats fell off a bit compared to his sophomore season granted that Wheeling Park team graduated 4 essential playmakers at the running back and receiver positions. We could see Wilkinson taking a big step in a rebound year and that is considering that coming off 1700 yards and 19 touchdowns is really that much of a down year.
- Jeremy Dillon – The reigning Kennedy Award is coming off a season where he led the Mingo Central Miners to a AA State Title. This kid is well known around the state and provides a dual threat capability that our first two players might not have. Dillon, a two-sport athlete with big looks to play basketball at the next level, puts up stats that absolutely overshadow everyone else in the state. The 6’5 Senior threw for 2,852 yards with 37 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. On top of that, he totaled 1,205 yards on the ground with 24 more scores. The Miners did lose a lot from the previous year but with this kid in their backfield they must be favorited in Double A.
4.Tyson Bagent – When comparing Bagent to the others in the list, his name tends to fall out of thought. Partly because of the distance between Martinsburg and the rest of the state, but make no doubt about it, this kid deserves to be in the conversation. The Senior led Martinsburg to their 5th title in 7 years last season, and with most of the team returning, their chances to make it six appears favorable. Bagent is noticeably talented, picking up offers such as Division 1 Albany. If you watched him last season, especially in the State Championship game, you can tell that Bagent is commander and winner. From their results in the 7 on 7 circuit (Finishing 2nd to Kenton, OH at WVU, and winning multiple tournaments), he has made even more steps in his development.
QBs To Watch For
Kerry Martin Jr. – The Junior dual threat quarterback led the Cougars to another semifinal appearance in the AAA playoffs the season before. He is being recruited more as a DB than QB for the college ranks but in the high school ranks, he will be one to put on a few shows this upcoming season. Martin racked up over 2,000 yards and 25 TDs through air with another 9 score on the ground. With Martin coming in holding a full year under his belt as the leader on offense and an arsenal of weapons around him, Capital are much in line to make another run at a state title.
Andrew Huff – The four-year starter from Winfield is a name that has been coming out of a few coaches’ mouths this offseason. The kid is big, strong, and looks like a quarterback. His quarterback appearance can be deceiving as his ability to run and avoid (or run through) tacklers is underrated. He has a good arm and with good weapons around him- could be very dangerous. Winfield is a dark horse in AA, and it is surprising that many people have them ranked as low as they do.
Adam Vance – This kid comes in fairly unknown but you might want to watch him under the radar this year. Leading Chapmanville’s spread attack, Vance put up solid numbers during his Junior season. With his main target, Dylan Smith, returning and a big play waiting to happen at every snap, Vance is one to watch.
Heath Cottrill – The 2019 Senior QB from Braxton County has been another QB that has flown under the radar. When you watch his film, you can tell that he has arm talent and is a decent athlete. The Eagles went 4-6 last season but Cottrill has impressive film. With a not so difficult schedule, the Eagles could be a sleeper team to sneak into the AA playoffs.