West Virginia got potentially huge news on Friday that Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier could be eligible to start by Week 1 of the 2017 season. Grier was serving a one-year suspension, beginning last October, for taking an over-the-counter supplement containing a substance banned by the NCAA.
"Will Grier enrolled for classes here at WVU on May 16. With the timing of his transfer, and the requirements that he has to finish from the NCAA, I cannot officially confirm his eligibility until the summer of 2017," Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said in a release. "However, I fully anticipate him being eligible for the opening game of the 2017 season."
While WVU wouldn't speak in certainties, Mike Casazza of the Charleston Gazette-Mail did, reporting that Grier will be eligible to start immediately for the 2017 season after sitting out '16 to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Grier announced his decision to transfer from Florida in December.
Charleston Gazette-Mail has learned QB Will Grier is eligible for 2017 opener provided he maintains eligibility requirements.— Mike Casazza (@mikecasazza) May 20, 2016
With this most recent news, here are three things to know about Grier's situation:
1. This is a significant reduction for a stiff suspension
Because the initial suspension meant Grier lost a full year of eligibility, he had to wait 365 days from the time of the drug test before he'd be available to play again. Grier's first appeal was denied in November and West Virginia issued its own appeal.
Exactly how Grier's transfer would affect his suspension was previously murky as this was a rather unprecedented case, but consider it cleared up now. Provided Casazza's tweet and Holgorsen's confidence prove to be correct, this is approximately a 50 percent reduction in Grier's suspension in terms of games missed. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been available until the middle of the 2017 season. Now, he'll have two full seasons of eligibility in Morgantown.
The NCAA takes a hard stance on failed drug tests -- a second offense for PEDs costs an athlete his/her entire eligibility -- but Grier's family has maintained that he made an "honest mistake." Chances are, West Virginia appealed to the NCAA by noting Grier would miss the 2016 season anyway, in essence already making his suspension a year and a half long.
2. This is huge news for the Mountaineers' quarterback situation
Skyler Howard is presumably West Virginia's quarterback in 2016, but Grier is viewed as the longer-term solution for 2017 and beyond. This would have been more difficult if Grier had been suspended for half of the '17 season; instead, he'll be able to spend the '16 season learning Dana Holgorsen's offense and go through the '17 spring drills on equal ground competing for the starting job.
There won't be any biding of time until the suspension is lifted. Once the Mountaineers take the field in Week 1, Grier will have a chance to become the new face of the program. That kind of consistency is critical for Holgorsen. Though he's been labeled as an offensive guru, the fact is Holgorsen hasn't had a steady or potent situation at quarterback since the Geno Smith days -- and Holgorsen didn't even inherit Smith. Rather, West Virginia has relied on transfers (like Grier) to fill the gaps. Recruited quarterbacks like William Crest Jr. and David Sills have switched to other positions.
3. Will the Grier/Holgorsen marriage even exist?
2016 is a crucial year for Holgorsen, who has never won more than eight regular-season games with the Mountaineers in the Big 12. It's year six, and couple the wins/losses with the aforementioned quarterback issues, time is definitely running out. Additionally, contract extension talks between Holgorsen and West Virginia have stalled and there appears to be no urgency in restarting those talks.
All of that begs the question: Is Holgorsen even around to coach Grier in 2017? If he is, it could be a perfect match. Grier is the most physically gifted quarterback Holgorsen has recruited and the offense could finally put up huge passing numbers after switching to a more run-oriented attack.
If he isn't, this will be a major case of what could have been.