The Times West Virginian

October 15, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: West Virginia QB carrousel continues

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — It’s Tuesday morning, which means it’s time to begin wondering again about our weekly game of West Virginia University quarterback musical chairs.

This week is kind of a tie-breaker, considering that Paul Millard has started two games, Ford Childress has started two games and Clint Trickett has started two games.

The starter in Saturday’s noon homecoming game against unbeaten No. 16 Texas Tech – yes, that’s right, another unbeaten, nationally ranked opponent – becomes the leader in the clubhouse for the WVU QB of the Year Award.

Millard opened the season, won one and lost one, Childress replaced him and won one and lost one until popping a pectoral muscle, so Trickett replaced him and won one and lost one until his shoulder began throbbing so badly it was affecting his performance.

Trickett, it seems, would be coach Dana Holgorsen’s No. 1 preference despite a ridiculously low 41 percent completion mark, the coach being willing to overlook that as a residual effect from the shoulder injury and instead take the good things he saw out the one-time Florida State QB’s ability to engineer a victory over then No. 11-Oklahoma State.

“Hopefully we’re in better shape this week,” Holgorsen said, when asked the inevitable quarterback question on the Big 12 coaches weekly conference call. “Clint took the whole week off last week. Ford repped a little bit more last week than he did the previous week.

“We’re back at it this morning. We got weights and treatments and meetings this morning because we got the day off from school. We’ll get back out there at 2:30 and practice and be able to gauge it.”

The good news was, according to Holgorsen, that his quarterbacks said they were feeling better.

That might be fine if they were preparing for a final examination, but they are preparing to play a football game, and Holgorsen knows “feeling better” is a long way from being ready to withstand the week ahead.

“Feeling better and being able to go out there and throw 250 balls and run an offense is a different story,” Holgorsen noted. “Hopefully, we got them ready to go today and can go through a whole practice and then reevaluate them tomorrow to see how their limbs handled the full day.

“We’ve got to get one of them to where they can take a bunch of reps in practice to get us into the game on Saturday. See, it’s not just about the game on Saturday. It’s about all the prep work that goes into during the week.”

In other words … no one has the job at present, and, perhaps as important, no one has lost the job, and that includes Millard.

The temptation is to brand him as the third quarterback in a two-man race, but Holgorsen cautions against that.

“It’s all about how they do during the week. I know what I’m getting with Paul. He’s going to practice great. He’s going to go out there and run the offense. He’s gotten the majority of the reps over the past few years other than those other two guys,” he said.

“I feel like those other two guys need to rep to see what they can bring to the table. The only way I can figure that out is if they have a good week in practice, then I can put them into a game.”

Holgorsen followed that up with a rather telling comment.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Paul Millard,” he said. “With that said, the inexperience and the lack of reps when it comes to Clint and Ford, I think they will get better and better.”

And so the beat goes on … and WVU is not alone when it comes to its quarterback situation.

The Big 12 has been a conference of quarterback instability.

Texas had been starting David Ash until he was injured, so Case McCoy went in and engineered an upset of Oklahoma, who has used both Blake Bell and Trevor Knight. Oklahoma State has used by J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf; Kansas State has played both Jake Waters and Daniel Sams; TCU has used both Case Pachall and Trevor Boykins.

And this week’s WVU opponent, Texas Tech, has used both Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb.

The result has been a change in the offensive approach of the Big 12, which had been quarterback rich and known for its aerial game and high scores.

Not this year. Not without Geno Smith and Landry Jones and Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III and the likes.

“The quarterback situation is different now,” added Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops. The last few years you had Sam Bradford, Geno Smith, Case McCoy … all of them in the NFL. Coaches played to their strengths.”

And this year the strength has not been at quarterback.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.