There is no question that Skyler Howard received much criticism from Mountaineer fans during his first full season as WVU’s starting quarterback. Can he make the leap in Year 2?
Despite a strong start, Howard struggled in the middle of the season with turnovers, and never gained the full trust of Mountaineer faithful.
However, Howard has always been a player that played with a lot of emotion. Howard undoubtedly heard the criticism before the end of the regular season, and used it as fuel to have his best game of his career in the Mountaineer’s bowl victory over Arizona State.
In the victory, Howard picked apart the Sun Devils weak secondary for 532 yards and five touchdowns.
Now, the question is this: can Howard use this momentum gained to turn his bowl success into long-term success throughout the 2016 season?
Many coaches and players around the WVU football team believe Howard has used the confidence gained from that game to having a great offseason, solidifying himself as the starting quarterback for one more season.
“He looks like a senior starting quarterback to me” Head Coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Everything makes sense. The signals and communication looks good. His checks are outstanding. You are starting to see timing with the receivers improve.”
Speaking of receivers, that is one area that should provide Howard with more consistency and support.
Last season, WVU possessed a very young, skilled group. While the group was extremely talented, they still experience growing pains and there was not proper timing between Howard and the receivers at times.
Now, with a majority of last seasons pass catchers returning, including the top two receivers in Shelton Gibson and Jevon Durante, the group is as confident as ever heading into the 2016 season.
The group will be one of WVU’s strongest position groups, and it is hard to imagine their success not rubbing off on Howard.
Personally, I think Howard will bounce back this season and use that momentum from the bowl game to a successful season.
Last season, WVU’s schedule consisted of four games in a row against ranked teams, with three being on the road. The Mountaineers will have those games at home now, which will help Howard feed off the energy of the crowd.
It will be a major plus having the lesser Big 12 games on the road, and the tougher opponents at home. This will help Howard and the Mountaineer offense, and I expect Howard to have a solid Senior campaign in Morgantown.