The Times West Virginian

Sports

February 4, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Seahawks win gives hope to WVU QBs

MORGANTOWN — Seattle’s Super Bowl victory over Denver on Sunday may have a huge impact upon West Virginia’s 2014 football season and Bruce Irvin won’t have anything to do with it.

Oh, having one of your former linebackers in possession of a Super Bowl championship ring can in no way detract from what you are trying to do, especially when it is being worn by someone like Irvin, who is as grateful as any former player I have ever seen for what WVU did for him.

Instead, it was Seattle’s quarterback, Russell Wilson, who has come into the National Football League at a time when quarterbacks are growing like the national debt.

Wilson, you see, just won a Super Bowl from the south side of 6-feet tall, standing at 5-11 in a league where most teams are running physical studs out there who push 6-4 and 6-5, which is Peyton Manning’s listed height.

How, you ask, does this affect the goings-on in Dana Holgorsen’s locker room?

Well, there is much uncertainty as to who will come out of the spring and then fall as his starting quarterback.

He returns, of course, a pair of 6-foot-2 QBs in Clint Trickett, who played through injury last year and whose health currently is uncertain, and Paul Millard, and brings in an intriguing 4-star prospect out of Baltimore’s Dunbar High, which sent Tavon Austin to WVU, in 6-2 William Crest.

But just as likely to win the starting job for this season is a junior college transfer out of Riverside, Calif., named Skyler Howard, who put together some bigtime statistics in earning the trip out of California’s sunny climate into the foot of snow he’s negotiating to attend class here in Morgantown.

He led Riverside to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the California State Championship game, completing 17 of 19 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns in the Southern California Bowl Game against Golden West.

For the season he completed 67.4 percent of 325 passes for 3,151 yards and 33 touchdowns, while throwing just six interceptions.

It well may be that Crest won’t be ready right out of the game and that Trickett might not be fully healthy and that Holgorsen would prefer to use Millard off the bench rather than as his regular, and considering what Wilson has pulled off in the NFL, it is going to be a lot easier for Holgorsen to sell the public on a quarterback who does not stand 6-feet tall.

Is it possible that Wilson has changed the perception of short quarterbacks? See, once upon a time, you didn’t have to stand 6-5 to be accepted at the position.

“Without question, Russell has at least turned some heads,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said before the Super Bowl. “For the other guys and all the guys who have played before him who didn’t quite get the chance for that same kind of stigma, he has opened up the door. It’s exciting to see that that’s happened because there are a lot of marvelous athletes, and we’re seeing it right now.”

In truth, you are probably going to see some effect in the upcoming draft with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy and was a finalist again this season even though he barely pushes 6-foot.

Always, of course, you could argue that short quarterbacks have found success in football, going back more than half a century to Eddie LeBaron, the 5-7 Little General of the Washington Redskins who made it to four Pro Bowls.

After playing with the Redskins, he was claimed in the 1960 NFL expansion draft and started a pretty good quarterback tradition at a new franchise known as the Dallas Cowboys.

History is littered with short quarterbacks who became special over the years, the greatest perhaps being the 6-foot Fran Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikings, while the best sub-6-foot quarterback is Sonny Jurgenson of the Eagles and Redskins who, like Tarkenton, quarterbacked his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Drew Brees of New Orleans and Michael Vick had done what they could for the short modern quarterback, Vick proving you could have someone who could run at the position, while the likes of Doug Flutie, who could beat everyone but West Virginia; Len Dawson and Joe Theismann.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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