The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 5, 2013

WVU quarterback battle ‘wide open’

MORGANTOWN — The biggest question facing West Virginia as it heads into the summer is whether the arrival of Clint Trickett solved the Mountaineers quarterback riddle when they head to camp in August or made it any more intriguing.

As usual, Dana Holgorsen, the head coach, is the man who must decide between Trickett and his two holdovers from last year, Paul Millard, the junior backup to Geno Smith, and Ford Childress, a redshirt freshman who has yet to throw a pass in a game.

Certainly, in Trickett, Holgorsen has brought in a player with more experience than the other two combine to have, Trickett having thrown for more than 300 yards against Clemson in one of his two starts in place of an injured EJ Manuel.

On the other hand, he could not win the starting job at Florida State and that throws up some caution flags, having lost out to a redshirt freshman. Was it because at 185 pounds Trickett is somewhat frail and coach Jimbo Fisher may have had questions if he could hold up for an entire season? Was it a matter of talent?

Certainly it has nothing to do with intelligence, Trickett having earned a degree in three years and having grown up in a football family, with former WVU offensive line coach Rick Trickett as his father. You can bet at bedtime as a youth he had Xs and Os dancing in his mind.

It’s easy to understand why Trickett left Florida State considering the circumstances he faced, especially with two years of eligibility ahead him.

It’s also easy to understand why he elected to come to West Virginia, even though there were opportunities elsewhere, opportunities where, he says, he had promises of a starting job.

“That was kind of a turnoff,” he said, quite honestly, adding a statement that shows a strong understanding of what recruiting is all about. “You don’t know how much you can trust that.”

He, along with Holgorsen, swear that there was no promise of a job at West Virginia.

“Coach didn’t give me a guaranteed starting job and I didn’t want a guaranteed starting job,” Trickett said this past week. “Coach said he was going to give me a chance to compete and that’s all I could ask for. My expectation is to go in there and be able compete.”

Certainly, Holgorsen would have put himself in a difficult situation promising the job. What does he tell his two holdovers? How does he keep them around, especially Millard, who is a junior?

Holgorsen, in fact, when asked about the quarterback situation gave a brief but telling analysis of it.

“Wide open, man,” he said.

So Trickett didn’t come because he was promised a job, but he was here for the spring game and saw both Millard and Childress perform.

Neither looked as if he would be on any pre-season All-American teams, leaving him believing that his best performance in summer camp could assure him the job.

Trickett also knows the magic over the years that Holgorsen has worked with quarterbacks within his offense. He wasn’t blind to Geno Smith being a second-round draft choice of the Jets or to the fact that Smith was the latest 4,000-yard passer Holgorsen has developed.

If he is going to reach his full potential, Holgorsen would figure to be the man who can get it out of him.

His track record is mind-boggling. At Texas Tech, Graham Harrell led the nation in total offense and was No. 2 in the nation with 398 yards a game in a different year. At Houston, quarterback Case Keenum led the nation in total offense, and at Oklahoma State. Brandon Weeden became the first OSU quarterback ever to earn first-team all-Big 12 honors while heading off to the NFL.

Millard and Childress have benefitted from their time with Holgorsen, know the playbook and have worked with the receivers, especially since none of them were first team a year ago, allowing them to take reps together.

What’s more, whoever wins the job need not be the next Geno Smith. If WVU’s defense is improved as expected, you won’t need 40 points a game to just get to a 7-6 record.

And, the quarterback should benefit from a far stronger running game than the Mountaineers were able to mount a year ago – save for the game in which Holgorsen moved Tavon Austin to running back. With Dustin Garrison hobbled as he recovered from knee surgery, WVU never could use the run successfully.

This year, with Andrew Buie back, Garrison healthy and a couple of newcomers expected to make huge contributions, there is depth and versatility that will keep an opponent from playing simply against the passing game.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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