After putting Dunbar on his back, William Crest continues Poets' pipeline to West Virginia

Local coaches are betting the dual-threat quarterback will thrive at the next level

  • Dunbar quarterback William Crest committed to play football at West Virginia.
Dunbar quarterback William Crest committed to play football… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
February 03, 2014|By Alexander Pyles, The Baltimore Sun

Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith knows which William Crest moment is his favorite.

Crest, the Dunbar quarterback, had already scored two rushing touchdowns against City this past October when the Poets faced a fourth-and-9 from the Knights' 12-yard line, trailing 26-22.

The call with 12.4 seconds remaining was a pass, but the senior saw an opening to the left and darted down the sideline, stopping only after his outstretched arms toppled the front pylon of the end zone for the game-winning score.

"The play that he made at City, that's moments you'll remember for the rest of your life," Smith said. "That's when I knew. We were kind of beat up all year, and he really put the team on his back."

That might be Smith's favorite play, but West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen is banking on being able to fill a highlight reel with favorites of his own. Crest orally committed to play football for the Mountaineers in April and plans to join other high school football stars across the country by signing his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday's National Signing Day.

A four-star quarterback who is one of two Baltimore-area football players ranked among the top 250 prospects in the nation by recruiting website — Gilman defensive end Melvin Keihn is the other — Crest traveled to Morgantown, W.Va., last weekend to make his first official visit with West Virginia coaches and his future teammates.

His arrival continues the Dunbar-to-West Virginia pipeline that has developed since Tavon Austin made the trip from Baltimore to Morgantown after his graduation in 2009. Austin — a wide receiver taken in the first round of last year's NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams — was followed by defensive end Marvin Gross, a freshman on last season's Mountaineers team.

Both former Poets played a role in Crest's decision, but the 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback said he committed to West Virginia for the whole package. Crest, who won the Class 1A state championship as Dunbar's starting quarterback in 2011 and 2012, picked West Virginia over Maryland, Virginia Tech, Ohio State and others.

"The fan base pulled me in, the coaches pulled me in," Crest said. "I'm big on the whole family thing. I know what it feels like to feel loved, and that's how I feel about West Virginia."

Crest's love for the Mountaineers is reciprocated by the coaching staff and the fans in Morgantown, said Keenan Cummings, a senior writer for Cummings also covers recruiting for and has closely monitored Crest.

"He was a guy they targeted very early," Cummings said. "West Virginia's quarterback situation is about as wide open as it can be. … They're pretty much pegging him as the future."

College coaches aren't permitted to discuss their recruits until after they sign, but opposing coaches in Baltimore are guessing that the future will be bright for Crest.

City coach George Petrides, who earned his 250th victory last season and is the area's active wins leader, said Crest's talent running and throwing the ball will translate well to the college game.

"I think he will" succeed, Petrides said. "Some kids don't become quarterbacks in college, but he certainly has the potential to do so, just on the size and strength of his arm."

Patterson coach Larry Mitchell, whose team lost to Dunbar 42-6 last season when Crest threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns, said the quarterback's footwork, form and technique make him stand out among others.

"When I watched him up close … it was just special," Mitchell said. Two touchdown passes into the corner of the end zone against the Clippers stand out in Mitchell's memory, but so does that game-winning touchdown against City.

"A young QB just wouldn't have the had the heart or the courage to do the things that he did in that individual situation," Mitchell said. "His heart, his courage are going to take him a long ways."

Crest, 18, oozes confidence. His Dunbar teammates call him "Young Geno," a nod to former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who is now with the New York Jets.

The nickname came from teammates during summer practice, and Crest accepted the moniker after watching some extra tape of the dual-threat passer.

Scouts see the similarities, too — a perhaps inevitable consequence given the quarterbacks' choice of university — but Mitchell said the comparison isn't quite right.

"I think Will's probably a little more poised than Geno," the Patterson coach said. "A lot of quarterbacks play not to make a mistake, and [Crest] plays not scared to make a mistake."

Such traits are what most impress Smith, also.

"His leadership, it's second to none," the Dunbar coach said. "You don't get that in a lot of high school kids. He's a leader. He's constantly the first one at practice and the last one to leave. ... He's an all-around great kid."

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