By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University holds its next-to-last practice today before breaking camp, school starting next week and the two-week countdown to the opener against William & Mary beginning, and coach Dana Holgorsen admits he’s nearing a decision on his starting quarterback.
There has been a three-pronged competition between junior transfer from Florida State Clint Trickett, returning backup to Geno Smith, Paul Millard, and redshirt freshman Ford Childress with Holgorsen unwilling to name a leader or even give a hint.
Now, he feels the time is about here to make a decision
“We’re close to figuring that out,” he said before Thursday’s practice. “We’ve got three more days to be fair to all of them and let them play. I’ve said it since the beginning of camp, if you have a bad day you need to be prepared to come out and have a good day. I anticipate that by the end of practice on Saturday being 100 percent sure of the direction we’re going to go in.”
But here’s the thing. While Holgorsen may pick his starting QB after that practice, you may not learn who it is because there is no media availability following Saturday’s drills.
“Millard and Childress have elevated their game,” Holgorsen said. “Is that because there’s another competitive body or because they’ve had all spring and all summer and 17 days of camp to take reps? I think they’ve gotten better, which isn’t making our job any easier.”
There are other starters, too
Holgorsen is working toward putting that together, too.
“You want to do it now. If we did it a week from now, I’d start to get antsy. We’re starting to build the depth chart,” he said.
“The first thing is developing a two-deep, which we’re pretty close to. Once you develop a two-deep, then you can let those guys battle it out for another week before you name starters.”
Holgorsen understands that he must have a quarterback and center solid by the opener but that he will be shuffling players in and out at other positions, still trying to decide what is best for the long run.
“There are going to be 50 guys that are going to go into the first game knowing that they’re taking snaps one way or another, whether it’s second-team stuff, special-team stuff or a rotation that we developed that we haven’t really discussed yet,” he said.
Comings and goings
The Mountaineers got some good news as the NCAA Clearinghouse cleared outside linebacker Isaac McDonald out of Hialeah, Fla., to begin practicing.
“We are still waiting on (linebacker) Darrien Howard, and (junior linebacker) d’Vante Henry still has some personal things he is working on,” Holgorsen said.
That’s the comings. The goings are receivers Will Johnson and Connor Arlia, who left the team because they were unable to crack the receiver rotation.
“Great kids, but they just want to go play,” Holgorsen said. “I will release them anywhere that they want to go so they can go get themselves in a position where they can play ball.”
Recapping the freshmen
Holgorsen has put off analyzing the true freshmen and whether they play or redshirt.
“We haven’t talked about it yet,” he said.
Some have shown they belong on the field.
“(Freshman wide receiver Daikiel) Shorts is a true freshman that will play. He was here in the spring,” Holgorsen said. “(Freshman running back) Wendell Smallwood is one that will play. He’s looked really good at times. I’d be shocked if (freshman cornerback) Daryl Worley didn’t have a big role on defense or special teams.
“(Freshman safety) Jeremy Tyler has really shown some things that are impressive,” the coach continued. “(Freshman linebacker Al-Rasheed) Benton is a 250-pound mature kid that has shown some signs of life. I think that’s all the true freshmen.”
There are a number of junior college transfers who also may redshirt, but three figure to play big roles this year.
“(Junior wide receiver Mario) Alford shows signs of showing some really good things. (Junior wide receiver) Kevin White is not redshirting. He is a big guy that’s ready to go. (Junior running back) Dreamius Smith is showing some good things,” Holgorsen said.
Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Adam Pankey continues to progress from injury, but he is nowhere close to playing yet.
“He is still month-to-month, and we are looking at October before he is back ready to go,” Holgorsen said.
If that sounds bad, consider what Holgorsen said about redshirt junior linebacker Jewone Snow.
“Snow is probably year-to-year it seems like. It seems like he always has something wrong, but he is not out there, and I am not sure if he will ever get back,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.