WVU's QB competition carries into 1st game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen knew when Geno Smith left the program and took his 71 school records with him to the New York Jets that he might not be able to find anyone who could match his production.
But he never dreamed he might have to put two quarterbacks together to come up with a suitable replacement.
Yet that is where he stands heading into Saturday's noon opener against William & Mary at Milan PuskarStadium.
Unable to decide between Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and Smith's backup from the past two years, Paul Millard, Holgorsen has decided to play both, and maybe give redshirt freshman Ford Childress some playing time.
“If we were playing tomorrow, that would be the case,” Holgorsen said Monday. “They've both risen their game and are competing pretty good. How it plays out, I don't know yet.”
By Tuesday's afternoon media session, nothing had changed.
“Who's going to start? I don't know,” he said. “Either Paul or Clint will start and the other one will play. Potentially all three of them will play. To this point they've done nothing to warrant not being quarterback here.
“I think it is going to take some game reps to put those guys in situations where we can see what they're all about.”
So, the competition will carry over into the first game, and the following week the Mountaineers travel to face Oklahoma.
By then, Holgorsen would hope to have his man, but it won't necessarily be the one with the strongest arm or the most nimble feet.
“The guy we're eventually going to give the most reps to is the guy who takes care of the ball. They have to minimize the negative things that happen, which are negative plays and turnovers,” Holgorsen said.
This past week was full of surprises. Not only do the Mountaineers go into the season without Smith and his two record-shattering receivers, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but they also are without last year's leading rusher, junior Andrew Buie, who will redshirt this year.
Buie led WVU with 851 rushing yards last season, including 204 in a road victory over Texas.
Buie was fifth on the four-deep running back grouping this season, behind transfer Charles Sims from Houston, true freshman Wendell Smallwood, junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and Dustin Garrison, the team's leading rusher from two years ago.
Everyone ahead of Buie, except Sims, returns next year. And former Pitt running back Rushel Shell also becomes eligible next year.
“He had some decisions,” Holgorsen said of Buie. “Some of these are decisions he makes, too. Did we force him to (redshirt)? No. ... With that said, you just felt it was in the best interest of him and of our program to save his year.”
Notes: LB Shaq Petteway will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an ACL. ... WR Kevin White, a junior college transfer expected to be a top receiver this season, will miss the opener with a foot injury. … Among those redshirting are freshman WR Shelton Gibson, junior college linebacker D'Vante Henry and DE Darrien Howard.
Bob Hertzel is a freelance writer.