West Virginia QB race heating up
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia is perhaps its strongest at running back. It needs to break in a new quarterback and several inexperienced receivers.
Still, no one expects a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense at Milan Puskar Stadium this autumn.
After all, this is a Dana Holgorsen-led program. This is the Big 12. This is a team that ranked among the top 10 nationally in passing yardage and passing efficiency last season.
No matter how deep and talented West Virginia's stable of running backs is — it is arguably the finest collection of quality and quantity of any position — Holgorsen figures to stick with what the Mountaineers do best.
“We'll have a really good running game this year, and I think we'll try to get those backs the ball, as many as we can,” redshirt freshman quarterback Ford Childress said. “But we're still going to air it out. It's in our DNA.”
The only question is who will be behind center. Holgorsen has said Childress, junior Paul Millard and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett are competing for the starting job.
Trickett, a junior, offers the most experience. Despite transferring, he is eligible to compete for the starting job immediately because he is a graduate student. Millard is most familiar with the offense, and Childress, though the most raw, has the highest ceiling of the three.
“We're all fighting to be the starting quarterback,” said Millard, who backed up Geno Smith last season. “We all have that same goal in mind, so it's going to be competitive throughout.”
Millard, a 6-foot-2 Texas native who has seen action in 11 games over his two seasons on campus, has been in meeting rooms with the big, strong-armed Childress for more than a year.
Trickett was added to the mix when he chose West Virginia after electing to transfer following spring practice at Florida State. Trickett started two of 17 games he played for the Seminoles over the past two years.
Intelligent enough to graduate high school and college early — he earned a degree in social sciences in three years — Trickett will need a rapid learning curve to overcome his biggest weakness: lack of knowledge of Holgorsen's system.
“You throw a guy in there who is taking snaps in our offense for the first time, and if there is hesitation and panic, nervousness, lack of communication and all that stuff, then we've got a little bit of an issue,” Holgorsen said after the first practice of camp. “I knew he would handle that well. That's not something I'm concerned with with him.”
But Holgorsen said Millard and Childress have shown calmness in the pocket, too.
“We need our outright leader to step up on offense, and hopefully, that person's going to step up in the quarterback room,” Childress said. “We needed more competition. Me and Paul pretty much finished even after spring practice, and we brought in another guy so that we can all compete and see who can come out on top.”
The stakes are high: The losers earn headsets and clipboards; the winner is handed the keys to a spread offense that has a streak of producing a 4,000-yard passer for 11 consecutive years.
Whoever is taking snaps likely will put up gaudy statistics.
“We don't know who's going to win the quarterback competition,” senior receiver Ivan McCartney said, “but at the end of the day, we know all three of them will do a good job in getting us the ball and in leading our team.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.