By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
We do not know who will be the starting quarterback at West Virginia this year, but less than three weeks from the opening game at home against William & Mary we do know how he is going to win it.
“The quarterback who doesn’t make bad decisions and turn the ball over is going to be the guy,” Coach Dana Holgorsen said Monday morning.
That will come as one of those “good news, bad news” things for one of the three men fighting over the job — Paul Millard.
“I’d say Paul makes some of the best decisions ... and the worst decisions,” Holgorsen said.
But it seems that all of them — Millard, Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Ford Childress — are in the same boat.
“Any time you have guys who are inexperienced and don’t have a lot reps under their belts they are going to make some good decisions and some bad decisions,” Holgorsen said.
Trickett has played the most of the three but it was in a different system, which in many ways eliminates whatever good can come from that, according to Holgorsen.
“I view them all the same. I don’t give any of them the upper hand to win the job based on them playing in a couple of games or not,” he said. “I’ve said since Day 1 that the guy that produces and plays the best in situations we put them in is the guy we are going to go with.”
Normally, in a situation like this, you put them out there, throw everything you have at them and they eliminate themselves.
That does not seem to be the case. Each has his assets and liabilities.
“They all make good decisions at times but because of inexperience make poor decisions that get them in trouble,” Holgorsen said.
Interestingly, it was Childress, the redshirt freshman who has never played in a college game, who took the largest stride forward this week.
“Ford continues to get better. He had his best day on Saturday since he’s been here,” Holgorsen said.
“I think he had 45 live reps from the red zone in. He made some good decisions and the right throws to get the ball in the end zone.”
That does not put him in the lead, for this is a day-to-day competition to find the replacement for Geno Smith.
“I am not making any decisions this week on any of the starters,” Holgorsen said. “Any time you have six more practices and a week of camp, things can change pretty drastically.
“Guys have good days and bad days,” he continued. “You are looking for guys that can consistently put a couple of good days together, which we are starting to figure out who those guys are. If the guys have a bad day, then they need to regroup pretty quickly if they want to be in the hunt for the starting job or a backup role.”
Holgorsen understands why Millard or Childress, both big-time high school cornerbacks in Texas, have problems making the right decision.
“There’s a fine line,” he said. “The Texas gunslinger mentality ... I mean, you don’t throw for 4,500 yards in high school as a senior without not being able to take some risks. But you don’t want to handcuff them, either, because if you handcuff them and don’t give them the ability to make decisions and pull the trigger they will play scared. We don’t want to get them to the point where they’re afraid to make a mistake. That’s not what we do offensively.”
And so, for at least the next week, the competition goes on as Holgorsen attempts to find his starting quarterback.
One position seems to be shaking out and that is the center spot where Tyler Orlosky has edged ahead of Tony Matteo while junior college import Stone Underwood has been moved to guard.
“I think Orlosky has the upper hand at center right now. It is between him and Tony Matteo. Those are the two that are taking the majority of the reps. Both of them have a lot of growing to do. Tyler is probably a little bit ahead physically,” Holgorsen said.
The move of Underwood to guard was part a numbers situation and part because he may wind up redshirting.
“It is tough to come in at center without any spring practice or a year under your belt,” Holgorsen explained. “Physically, the game is different here than what he is used to, and then you add the pressure of making calls and snapping as well as the battle you have to play each and every snap. It is hard. He has a redshirt year that we may use, but we will figure that out down the road.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.