West Virginia football isn’t finished for the 2019 season after all.
Although the Mountaineers won’t be taking the field again this year, former quarterback Will Grier will be making his NFL debut this week for the Carolina Panthers.
Grier played two seasons for WVU, leading the team to 15 wins after transferring from Florida after 2015. He started the majority of games, only missing some time at the end of 2017 when he broke his finger against Texas.
The quarterback responded nicely and produced well enough to finish fourth overall in the Heisman voting the next season. Grier passed for almost 3,900 yards to go with 40 total touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
WVU managed just an 8-4 record in 2018 after winning eight of its first nine. The Mountaineers fell to Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Syracuse in their bowl game to end the year on a sour note.
While he wasn’t among the top of the quarterback class coming out in the NFL draft, it was nearly a certainty that Grier would be selected at some point.
The Carolina Panthers drafted the 6’1” quarterback with the 100th overall pick in the third round. Even though there are only 32 NFL teams, there were seven compensatory selections to close out the round, making picks 96-102 part of round three.
Carolina planned on sitting its rookie quarterback for the entire first season with hopes that Grier could be the starter down the road. As they tend to do in the NFL, things got muddled for the Panthers and now Grier is in line to make his first start.
Grier and his Panthers travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts this Sunday in the early slate of games. Even though the Colts are in the midst of a bad run themselves, Carolina is only touchdown underdogs at WV sportsbooks with Grier under center.
The Carolina Panthers had high expectations entering the 2019 season. With veteran quarterback Cam Newton and experienced coach Ron Rivera in charge, the Panthers looked poised for a bounce-back year.
That quickly changed after the team started 0-2 and its leader in Newton went down with a foot injury. Backup quarterback Josh Allen took over the play-calling duties knowing that Newton would miss a few games at the minimum.
After an amazing start, Allen made fans forget about their fallen star. The Panthers won Allen’s first four starts and were 5-1 through six games with their new QB.
Since then, however, Carolina’s lost six straight games and is in need of some change. Coach Rivera has already been relieved of his duties so the next place to turn is at the quarterback position.
Will Grier enters the starting roster to make his NFL debut against the Colts in Week 16. Even though the Panthers don’t have much to play for, this is an important time for the young quarterback.
It’s clear that the Panthers don’t know what their plans for the future are exactly, so a quality start to his career could truly help catapult Grier. Newton could’ve played his last game for Carolina and Kyle Allen proved to be very average.
A hot start at the end of 2019 could put Grier in position to be the leader in the locker room heading into the offseason. If the front office decides to move on from Newton, then Carolina might be Grier’s team much sooner than later.
Grier To The Rescue
Despite the Panthers’ struggles of late, they have a lot of talent to surround their new quarterback with. Running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the top playmakers in the entire league and is a workhorse for the Panthers.
Since entering the NFL in 2017, McCaffrey has been among the leaders in total yards from scrimmage. He’s a do-it-all back who is comfortable running 20 times a game as well as a consistent receiving threat out of the backfield.
This season, McCaffrey’s totaled over 1,300 rushing yards along with 94 receptions for an additional 800 yards. He’s scored 18 touchdowns on the year so far.
No matter who the quarterback is, McCaffrey is one of the best offensive weapons in football and needs to get the ball often. With Grier making his first start, you better believe that McCaffrey is a vital part of the offense on Sunday.
The Panthers have some help on the outside for Grier, too. Wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel have each showed a lot this season.
Moore leads the team with almost 1,200 receiving yards on 133 targets. He’s averaging an incredible 13.7 yards per catch.
While few NFL quarterbacks perform well in their first starts, Grier does have a decent situation around him. If he’s able to have some success early on in the game, his confidence will grow and help him throughout.
In the Panthers’ last matchup with Seattle, Allen threw three interceptions and had a quarterback rating of just 58.7. Carolina still only lost the game by six points.
Grier has shown he’s a capable player, he just needs to do it at the next level now. The most difficult thing he’ll need to overcome is his lack of experience with his own offense.
Panthers’ interim coach Perry Fewell has liked what he’s seen from Grier while working with the scout team. According to ESPN, he said:
“He’s gotten better with command of the huddle. When I see him on the look squad, his voice inflection is good because we ask him to do some hard counts. We’ve asked him to do some things the opponent’s quarterbacks will do. His ability to scramble and throw on the run has gotten better.”
Regardless of the outcome of the first game, this is a great opportunity for the former WVU standout and should be the first of many.
WV Sportsbooks Odds
Even though bettors in the Mountain State are disappointed WVU doesn’t have a bowl game, they can still put some money down on Will Grier this weekend. Combining WVU football and NFL betting will likely generate a lot of activity at the sportsbooks.
Here are the Carolina Panthers’ odds from Dec. 20 for this Sunday according to both WV mobile sports betting apps:
Carolina Panthers vs. Indianapolis Colts
- CAR +6.5 (-110)
- Moneyline: +235
- IND -6.5 (-110)
- Moneyline: -278
- Over/Under 47 (-110)
- CAR +7 (-110)
- Moneyline: +235
- IND -7 (-110)
- Moneyline: -280
- Over/Under 46.5 (-110)