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Doege Improved Heading into 2021

West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege, left, hands off to running back Leddie Brown during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Matthew Putney)

MORGANTOWN — When West Virginia hits the field for Saturday’s season opener, all eyes will be under center.

It’s been more than eight months since Jarret Doege, the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback, was benched during the Liberty Bowl due to struggles and ineffectiveness.

He was forced to watch from the sideline as backup quarterback Austin Kendall led the team to the win.

Those miscues fueled Doege’s work this offseason and, on the eve of West Virginia’s Week 1 matchup with Maryland, early returns are that the redshirt senior has looked impressive in preseason practice.

“When he came back (in January), we had a one-on-one meeting [and] he was in a great mindset,” quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan said.

“I forget what his exact quote was, but it was along the lines of ‘I’m ready to get better.’

“He had a vision, he had a plan, and he executed it and it’s really showed. He’s playing with very high confidence right now, and he’s playing at a high level.”

Doege’s offseason improvements will be tested against the Terrapins defense, a unit that boasts a strong secondary. The group returns two defensive backs, Jordan Mosley and Nick Cross, that ranked among the team’s top three tacklers last season.

According to co-offensive coordinator Gerad Parker, that unit is capable of executing a multitude of skills at a high level.

“They should feel good about [their secondary], they’re good,” Parker said. “They’ve done a good job in the back end. They’re coached well, they have good instincts … they play the ball really well, they’re aggressive, they’re willing tacklers. They do a great job in coverage being able to collision and get on you and match routes in their man coverage. They do a good job disguising things.”

The Mountaineers are hoping that Maryland may find itself in a similar situation, given how explosive the Terrapins are at the wide receiver position. New offensive coordinator Dan Enos will be able to utilize the team’s top five pass catchers from last season, including a former five-star recruit.

That would be Rakim Jarrett, who totaled 252 yards last season in only five games. Senior Dontay Demus Jr., will also see a handful of targets as he’s coming off a season leading the team in touchdowns with four.

“Receiver-wise, (they are) very talented,” head coach Neal Brown said. “Maybe as talented as anybody we’re gonna play this year. There are probably four to six quality guys there at the receiver position. It starts, for them, at receiver with Demus and Jarrett, and I think those guys are NFL players.”

This weekend marks the first time WVU will open the season with a true road game during Brown’s tenure. He’s hoping the team’s performance will be a step in the right direction after going winless on the road last year.

“We need to get a bad taste out of our mouth,” Brown said. “We didn’t go on the road and perform as well (last season). That hadn’t been the case historically, we played our best football on the road in ’19 winning at Kansas State and winning at TCU … I don’t think it’s an issue, but we still got to go out and win on the road, which we didn’t a year ago.”

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