By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Football is and always has been a game of follow the leader.
It’s a game of trends and fads. Don Faurot invents the split-T, and everyone follows. Dave Nelson develops the Wing-T at Delaware, and everyone follows. The wishbone comes to Texas and Oklahoma, and soon everyone in college and high school is playing the wishbone.
Then comes the spread and now the read option and tomorrow, promise, it will be something else.
It’s that way on offense, on defense, in uniform design, shoes, everything.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson comes up with a touchdown dance and before you know it, people are dancing after making the simplest of plays.
Today there is another fad going through college football.
It’s called “Guess the Quarterback,” and apparently it is the rage of the game.
Goes something like this: Why should you tell your opening opponent who is going to be your quarterback, even if said opponent couldn’t beat you if you went out there with only 10 players and no quarterback.
Oh, the coaches are saying, for the most part, they haven’t figured out who has won the job, but it’s awfully hard to believe, knowing coaches, that less than two weeks out from the opener they don’t know who their starter is going to be and giving them 75 percent of the first-team snaps on a daily basis … behind closed doors.
Forget that a state institution like West Virginia University has to make public bids that run up into the 80 millions of dollars but are under no obligation to reveal who the key player will be to the 60,000 faithful fans who must blindly invest in tickets.
So here’s West Virginia, about to play William & Mary in seven days, and coach Dana Holgorsen has made it top secret whether transfer Clint Trickett, who is favored to win the spot and ran with the first team in the few minutes of meaningful practice he allowed the media to see; or last year’s backup Paul Millard, who was said to have come on strongly; or redshirt freshman Ford Childress, whom Holgorsen praised; would be the starter.
This is infuriating stuff for us media types who are charged with writing season previews for special sections or other publications a couple of weeks out or more, but it is difficult to really get too infuriated when you turn around and see that six of the 10 teams in the Big 12 have failed to name a starter at QB going into this weekend.
Of those who haven’t, about the only one that could be termed strategic is TCU’s Gary Patterson’s failure to name a starting quarterback, for his opener is against a team you really don’t want to give any edge to – LSU.
Of course, with Patterson getting back Casey Pachall, who was the Big 12’s top-rated quarterback – including Geno Smith – through four games last year before he ran into some problems that led to his leaving school, you have to believe that Patterson is going to go in that direction.
Treyvon Boykin did throw for 2,054 yards with 57 percent complete and 15 TDs as compared to 10 interceptions in replacing Pachall, which is good stuff.
But Pachall was at 66 percent with 948 yards and 10 TDs to one interception when his career was so rudely interrupted.
If being coy is right for Patterson, it is not exactly an excuse Bob Stoops can use at Oklahoma, where his Sooners warm up for a second game against WVU by facing Austin Peay.
Stoops had a different dilemma. He faced a legitimate philosophical battle with big Blake Bell, a Tim Tebow type of QB, and redshirt freshman Trevor Knight, more traditional.
Stoops didn’t make his decision until Friday after practice and opted for Knight, which says he may have a real good one there because Bell is a load to face.
Oklahoma State, the preseason favorite in the Big 12, like TCU has a difficult opener facing Mississippi State of the SEC at a neutral site Houston, and he has said he will not make his announcement until game day.
Clint Chelf, who won the job with a strong performance late last year after starting as third string, has been battling with J.W. Walsh.
The veteran Bill Snyder has had quarterback dilemmas in the past and always taken it down to the Tuesday before the opener and it looks as though it will be that way again, but that probably is to keep Jake Waters and Daniel Sams at their competitive best because facing North Dakota State doesn’t figure to get any of the competitive juices flowing.
First-year Coach Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech is without his projected starter Michael Brewer to a back injury so has had a competition between Davis Webb, who enrolled in school in January, and preferred walk-on Baker Mayfield for the opener against SMU and may play both.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.