The Times West Virginian

August 3, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Childress: Youth can make impact

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — The question came at him like a blindside blitzer, as many of the best questions do, this one actually coming from Ford Childress’ blindside by Mike Casazza of the Daily Mail.

“Ford, this really unfair,” he said as preface — and warning — as to what was coming, “but a redshirt freshman from Texas won the Heisman last year, right? Not to put any pressure on you, but a lot of people would say a redshirt freshman quarterback is not supposed to come in and turn a team around like that, right?”

Childress, who just so happens to be a redshirt freshman quarterback from Texas, laughed nervously as the point of the question was reached.

“Does that change expectations? Not saying everyone (who is a redshirt quarterback from Texas) has to do that, but there isn’t that invisible wall that you can’t do it because it just happened.”

OK, now Childress, West Virginia University’s quarterback from Texas who most people believe won’t be able to beat out Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and will battle last year’s backup Paul Millard for the backup role, go ahead and answer that.

He tried.

“Exactly,” he began, referring to Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel’s having torn down the belief that a freshman could not win the award. “You can never predict the future, but basically that’s everyone’s goal to win the Heisman and be the best player in the country that year. Everyone is looking for that.”

Obviously, considering only one of all the football players in America wins that award in any given year, it is a rather unrealistic goal, especially when you are asking a kid a year out of high school and with no experience to come in, start, win 10 or so games … it’s just something that isn’t supposed to be done.

Or is it? Are kids growing up faster now? And could Ford Childress possibly, in as simple an offense as Holgorsen runs, actually pull it off … if he wins the starting job?

“With a simple offense, you can make an impact, no matter how old you are,” Childress said, but he was speaking not necessarily about himself and the Heisman but instead about so many young guys on the team who need to make an impact for the team to grow from last year’s seven-win season.

“Anybody on our team, because we have a ton of guys who just came in and haven’t been in our offense, haven’t seen our offense ever, that are going to have to step up and make a big impact.”

The idea behind the offense isn’t to fool the defense, simply to beat them with schemes that work simply, keeping players from having to become Rhodes Scholars to pass … or run.

In fact, coach Dana Holgorsen takes pride in the fact that there isn’t even a playbook.

Childress, in fact, recalls the first time he and last year’s quarterback coach Jake Spavital, who now happens to be coaching that redshirt freshman Heisman winner in his sophomore year, sat and watched film.

“He was just showing me the plays,” Childress recalled. “I was expecting him to hand me a playbook, but that doesn’t happen around here apparently.”

Childress understands his situation. With the offense that simple, a veteran like Trickett will have no trouble picking it up, so it’s come down to something more than that when Holgorsen has to choose.

What Childress’ thoughts on what will turn the tide?

“I think someone who can lead this offense and have someone else look at you and know that you can step up and do it,” he said, perhaps describing his own image of himself.

After all, players who are 19 or 20 and talented aren’t exactly known for their patience.

“I want to start now,” Childress proclaimed. “It was always in my mind when I came here that I’ve got a great opportunity to start for four years. That what I’m planning on doing.”

Childress believes he could have played last year as a true freshman but understands there was no need with Geno Smith around.

“I think I would have been pretty ready, but I don’t think we could have gotten as dynamic a stuff as Geno did. His checks and all that, I wasn’t up to there …but I think I could have operated well,” he said.

He says he getting better with the things he has to and believes that actually there is a blessing in being as raw as he is.

“I’m just a younger guy who has a lot more to learn and can get better,” he said. “I have more room to grow. There’s not really a ceiling yet. I can learn from my mistakes more. They’ve already learned from them.”

Interestingly, Holgorsen has different things to pick from.

“There’s subtle differences between our games. Clint is probably the most athletic of all of us and Paul has been in the offense longer, so he kind of knows what going on,” Childress said. “We all can make every throw. It’s more mental differences between us.”

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