Howard strong early, has room to improve

MORGANTOWN, W.Va – Through two games of the 2015 season, West Virginia sits at 2-0, its offense has scored 40-plus points in both of its contests, and the defense has given up a combined 17 points.

That being said, outside of their 2-0 record, the Mountaineers haven’t been perfect, and with their biggest test of the season coming up in the form of the rival Maryland Terrapins, WVU is looking to fine tune its game before it hits the meat of its schedule.

As the field general for the Mountaineers, quarterback Skyler Howard has led West Virginia to impressive offensive outputs in each of the season’s first two games. Howard has completed 37-of-51 passes, thrown for 622 yards and five touchdowns, and has still yet to throw his first collegiate interception.

Heading into week 4, Howard actually leads the country with a quarterback ranking of 207.3. Looking at the numbers, it wouldn’t appear there is too much the junior can improve upon. But Howard is still relatively green when it comes to running head coach Dana Holgorsen’s system, and the intricacies of the hand signals involved take repetition to get down pat.

Howard said he feels he and coach Holgorsen have good communication from the sideline to the huddle, but thinks he can improve in his efficiency relaying the message Holgorsen to the other 10 players on the field with him.

“It’s just a continuation of taking what they give us. You know, with the underneath stuff mixed in with the over-the-top stuff when it’s there. Really just continuing the increase of communication from coach to me, and from me to everybody else. It’s just picking up on the little things now,” Howard said.

The way things are going for Howard lately, however, he doesn’t even necessarily need to make the right read at the line of scrimmage to come up with a big play.

According to quarterbacks coach Michael Burchett, early on in the Liberty game Howard set the offensive front well, but miscommunicated with his wide-outs on which routes to run. A testament to his versatility, Howard turned what could have been a disaster of a play into a 34 yard gain on a scramble.

This is what Howard can do right now, but he has the potential to reach even higher when he gets all the finer points of Holgorsen’s offense down. He is still learning this system, but his raw athleticism and smarts have allowed him to be one of 2015’s most prolific passers so far.

“It’s nothing really that we teach, that’s just him playing ball. He’s instinctive. He does a great job of doing what we need to as far as being able to stay out of negative plays,” Burchett said.

“We’ve had three sacks these first two games, and it’s not been on him holding the ball too long, it’s been schematic, but he’s avoided a couple on his own with his speed.”

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