Will Grier

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Josh Jackson shines as No. 21 Virginia Tech wins thriller against Will Grier and No. 22 West Virginia

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After playing one half of defensive football, No. 21 Virginia Tech (1-0) and No. 22 West Virginia (0-1) opened up the offenses in the second half and traded touchdowns for the last 30 minutes. In the end, the Hokies held on for a nail-biter of a win, 31-24 thanks to a brilliant debut from quarterback Josh Jackson.

The freshman had some rough moments but still turned in an admirable effort against a West Virginia team that can play some decent defense as well. Jackson passed for 235 yards and a touchdown and rushed for a team-high 101 yards and another score. Justin Fuente needed his young quarterback to shine in a back-and-forth game like this on the big stage, and he got it. Jackson emerged as a star in his first game, and the Hokies overall look once again to be a top contender in the ACC Coastal Divison, and they could even be ready to make a run at the conference crown if they play like this all season long.

Not to be overlooked in the loss is the play of West Virginia quarterback Will Grier. In his first start since 2015 with the Florida Gators, Grier passed for 371 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Grier also put together 52 hard-earned yards on the ground, highlighted by a hurdle to keep a drive moving on the final drive of the game. Grier put the Mountaineers into position to tie the game, but a couple of last-ditch efforts were unable to get in the endzone.

West Virginia running back Justin Crawford also turned in a 106-yard performance, and both teams went for over 200 yards on the ground. The teams also combined for 50 first downs and had just one turnover in the game. An interception thrown by Grier led to nothing more than a Virginia Tech punt three plays later.

It was a toss-up game from start to finish, and ended with both teams having chances to grab a win. Virginia Tech just managed to find a few more plays.

There are few games you witness and feel good about both teams heading forward this early in the season. Both West Virginia and Virginia Tech look as though they will be able to have strong seasons if Sunday night was any indication of what to expect from each this fall. Both the Big 12 and ACC should be put on alert about these two teams.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen cost his team some yardage in the second half when he crossed the line and stepped on the field. This season, officials are being more strict with coaches stepping on the playing field. Moments after chasing down a ref over a call he didn’t like, Holgorsen had a flag thrown on him for stepping on the field while West Virginia was being called for a holding penalty. The 15-yard penalty to Holgorsen helped turn a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 26, moving the ball from the Virginia Tech 23-yard line back to the Tech 48-yard line.

Virginia Tech will open up their home schedule next week against Delaware. West Virginia will also play at home next week, as they host East Carolina (who just lost to the top-ranked FCS team, James Madison).

Hokies take late first half lead in defensive battle with West Virginia

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Old Big East rivals Virginia Tech and West Virginia are locked in an entertaining defensive battle in Landover, Maryland. After one half of play, the No. 21 Hokies hold a 10-7 lead on the No. 22 Mountaineers thanks to a touchdown run from freshman quarterback Josh Jackson.

West Virginia’s Will Grier has been given some good protection from his offensive line in his first start with an FBS program since being suspended by Florida in 2015. Grier isn’t lighting up the Hokies defense, which very few players and teams are capable of doing anyway, so it has been a smart and steady evening of work so far for Grier with 15-of-24 going for 105 yards and a touchdown, and 13 rushing yards. Justin Crawford leads all players with 85 rushing yards for West Virginia, which is more rushing yards than Virgina Tech has as a team (68).

Virginia Tech has also broken in new quarterback Josh Jackson, who has had flashes of solid play as well. Jackson has also had to play efficiently for the Hokies rather than break open many big plays, but he has had his moments.

The story of the first half, however, has been the defenses. The hitting has been fierce at times, and the Mountaineers have exhibited something rarely seen from a Big 12 team by forcing three consecutive three-and-outs after Grier tossed a poor interception to Virginia Tech’s Trevon Hill. It wasn’t one of Grier’s finer moments.

But he did make up for it later in the first half with a touchdown pass to David Sills to give the Mountaineers a 7-3 lead.

Jackson led the Hokies on a nice touchdown drive to close out the first half, finishing the drive himself with a nice run up the middle of the West Virginia defense to reclaim the lead.

Report: West Virginia QB Will Grier to be eligible for 2017 season opener

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When quarterback Will Grier was suspended halfway through the 2015 season at Florida due to a failed PED test, it was expected he would be out of action for at least the first half of the 2016 season. Now at West Virginia, Grier will reportedly have to wait until 2017 to play again.

Mike Casazza of The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports, via Twitter, Grier will be eligible for the 2017 season opener as long as he meets eligibility requirements by that point in time.

As previously reported, it was expected Grier would have to sit out the entire 2016 season due to NCAA transfer rules. What was previously unknown was whether he would have to sit out the first six games of the 2017 season as well to honor the suspension’s length. Apparently that will not be the case. That should be good news for Grier, as he is itching to get back on the field as quickly as possible.

For those planning ahead, Grier’s first game where he will be eligible to play at West Virginia will be against Virginia Tech in a game to be played at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (home of the Washington Redskins of the NFL) on September 2, 2017. Let the countdown begin.

Florida’s Kelvin Taylor, Demarcus Robinson and Alex McCalister entering 2016 NFL Draft

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Add three more names to the list of underclassmen declaring early for the 2016 NFL Draft. On Monday, Florida announced the early departures of running back Kelvin Taylor, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive end Alex McCalister. All three will join teammate Vernon Hargreaves III as early entrants to the NFL Draft next spring.

“I’m expecting those guys to play all-out,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said in a released statement. “They’ve been working out. I think these guys have a pretty good feeling of they’ve got one more opportunity to be proud of what they put on film, to show their worth.”

Taylor, the son of former NFL running back Fred Taylor, has rushed for 985 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Robinson is Florida’s second-leading wide receiver this season, catching a team-high 47 passes for 505 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Antonio Callaway is the only receiver on the team with more receiving yards.

McCalister has appeared in nine games, missing the last three games due to a foot injury. In his time on the field, he has recorded 26 tackles, six and a half sacks and recovered two fumbles. He was already ruled out for Florida’s appearance in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan as a result of his foot injury.

Floria is also losing quarterback Will Grier to a transfer. Grier, suspended for one calendar year for a banned substance, was granted a release from his scholarship by Florida, McElwain confirmed.

“The one thing I’ll never do is make someone do something they don’t want to do,” McElwain said. “In life, sometimes a change of scenery is good. In this case, he’s going to go have a successful career and go on to play in the NFL. We’ll help him and support him in every way we can.”

Between the transfers and early NFL Draft entries, Florida will have some key spots to fill in the coming year.

Where does Florida go without Will Grier?

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Florida quarterback Will Grier announced plans to transfer out of Gainesville yesterday, leaving the future of Florida’s quarterback position looking a bit thinner. Because he was already serving a one-year suspension, the Gators had no other choice but to ride with Treon Harris for the second half of the 2015 season, but will Harris be the guy in 2016?

Harris will get a chance to end the season on a high note against Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. A good performance in the bowl game with the extra time to prepare a solid Michigan defense could lead to some momentum heading into the spring practice season. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it is overrated, however in this case it would seem to be a positive if Harris can end the season on an upswing after ending the season two losses to Florida State and Alabama as well as some ugly wins against Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt.

In Florida’s Class of 2016, as currently lined up, the Gators have a commitment from four-star pro-style quarterback Feleipe Franks from Crawfordville, Florida. The second-best pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2016 according to Rivals could get an early shot at competing for the starting job under center with Harris. Harris, of course, will have the benefit of having playing experience at Florida over the past two seasons, including one year under McElwain, but Franks will be the quarterback hand-picked by McElwain and will offer more the style of passer McElwain will prefer to build his offense around, instead of Harris as a dual-threat. An early enrollee, Franks will get a chance to work with the team this spring and make his case for the starting job leading up to the season opener in 2016 against UMass.

If Franks still needs some time to develop and get comfortable in the offense, one other possible contender for the starting job could be Luke Del Rio, the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio who joined the Gators last summer. Previously a walk-on at Alabama in 2013, Del Rio transferred to Oregon State in the spring of 2014. Del Rio then transferred to Florida in the spring of 2015 and was forced to sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. That makes him eligible to compete for a job in 2016.

One of the biggest areas of need for improvement on Florida’s roster is at quarterback. Offense has been lagging for Florida in recent years, and McElwain is tasked with improving that while keeping the defense solid. Whoever becomes the Gators starter in 2016, if he can provide a lift on offense and make the Gators at least formidable on offense, Florida could be the top team in the SEC East once again in 2016.