By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
It was a wise football coach who once remarked that if you have two quarterbacks you actually have none, and that is what West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was fearing less than two weeks ago when he talked about how he would be getting antsy if he went into the final week of the preseason without having selected a starter.
Now he is four days away from Saturday’s noon opener with William & Mary, and neither last year’s backup Paul Millard nor Florida State transfer Clint Trickett has separated himself from the other, but Holgorsen said he’s “not as antsy as I thought I would be.”
See, the fewer decisions a coach has to make, especially in personnel matters during the course of a game week and during the game, the easier his job becomes.
If you have Peyton Manning, you aren’t thinking about playing the backup, and if you have Geno Smith — at least in blue and old gold, not New York Jets green — your only decision is whether to call a first-down pass to Tavon Austin or a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey.
That was Holgorsen’s luxury over the past two seasons.
This year he had hoped that either Millard or Trickett — or Ford Childress, the man-child — would offer him a similar luxury.
“I haven’t picked one yet,” Holgorsen said during the Big 12 coaches’ conference call. “They’ve kind of risen their games a little bit, and they’re battling.”
That could be filed under the heading of old news, for he had released that in the depth chart Sunday night.
What came next was news of a more shocking variety.
Holgorsen admitted that if the William & Mary game were to kick off today, he might well play both quarterbacks.
He wasn’t sure how he’d split the time. Perhaps he’d use one against William and the other against Mary.
“If we were playing tomorrow, that would be the case,” Holgorsen said. “They’ve both risen their game and are competing pretty good. How it plays out, I don’t know yet. We thankfully have practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to see where we’re at.”
If nothing else, that really turns the pressure up on the two competitors.
If he wants to see who is best suited to throw a third-and-8 fourth-quarter pass against Oklahoma in two weeks with the clock running down and WVU behind by two points, having them compete for three days with the job on the line will certainly give him a good picture of that.
Holgorsen’s situation is made more difficult by the fact that two quarterbacks bring different gifts to the party.
“Paul’s a little more comfortable with the communication and getting the calls from me. He probably knows where we want him to go with the ball a little better, which is based upon the amount of reps he’s had in this specific offense,” Holgorsen said.
“Clint is seasoned, has more game experience, has really good leadership skills, remains calm under pressure and keeps the play alive pretty good,” he added.
So what does it come down to?
“In a way it’s about who’s not going to make the mistakes, which is just what our offense is about, distributing the ball to a bunch of different skill guys based on what the defense is giving us.”
And Holgorsen doesn’t sound like he’s in a hurry to find out how he will go.
“It may take some game experience to figure out the guy. It may be a situation where they continue to complement each other and we continue to rep them all year. We don’t know yet,” he said.
As for Childress, the redshirt freshman who may be quarterback of the future at WVU?
“The other two were playing a little bit better,” Holgorsen said. “Ford is probably going to end up being a tremendous quarterback for us, no doubt. It’s just really hard to rep three quarterbacks. We had to narrow it down, and once we did that, both Paul and Clint looked good. We thought it was warranted to keep the competition going.”
Almost as important as the inability to pick a starting quarterback five days from the opener is the news that linebacker Shaq Petteway is lost for the season to an ACL, apparently something decided upon days ago but kept as secret as the depth chart.
Petteway was a decent player a year ago and contributed with 50 total tackles.
His loss may be felt more on special teams than on defense, as he was a strong special teams player a year ago, along with cornerback Nana Kyeremeh, who will miss the season also due to shoulder surgery.
Among the other nuggets Holgorsen was willing to share with his fans during the first weekly Big 12 phone call is that the kickoff job was won by Mike Molinari.
On to the ever-evolving new radio broadcast team, now just days away from making its debut.
It was almost too close to kickoff for IMG College to make any radical changes, so play-by-play voice Tony Caridi will be joined by color analyst Dwight Wallace while The Signal Caller Jed Drenning will continue to do his top-shelf sideline commentary.
Dale Wolfley and Amanda Mazey join the game day crew as ancillary commentators, whatever that means.
Former WVU wide receiver J.D. Woods was among the victims in the Steelers’ first round of cuts Monday.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.