By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Who will it be? West Virginia head football coach Dana Hol-gorsen will have to make a decision soon, as the Mountaineers search for a starting quarterback with the opener against William & Mary looming on Aug. 31.
The competitors include junior Paul Millard, redshirt freshman Ford Childress, and Clint Trickett, a transfer from Florida State.
Millard may have had the early edge, at least in terms of experience in the West Virginia offense, throwing all of 19 passes last season for the Mountaineers.
Childress has never thrown a college pass, while Trickett was finally able to get on the field with the Mountaineers when practice began on Thursday.
“At the end of the day, we are all teammates and somebody is going to step up to lead this team,” said Millard, a 6-foot-1 signal-caller from Flower Mount, Texas. “For me personally, I am just going out there every day and trying to get better. Obviously we all have the same goal in mind — to be the starting quarterback of this team.
“There is no reason to really stress about it because that is not going to help us in the situation.”
All three have big shoes to fill after Geno Smith threw for 4,205 yards and 42 touchdowns last year for the Mountaineers, and is now competing for the starting position with the New York Jets.
Millard wants to be that person.
“I want to step up and be the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers this year,” he said. “That is the mindset you have to have going into camp — that you are that guy. That is definitely my mindset.”
A highly-touted prospect out of Houston, Childress has imposing size — 6-foot-5, 224 pounds — and a powerful arm. He spent last season watching from the sidelines, and hopes to use that experience to his advantage.
It was pretty even yesterday,” said Childress, after the first day of practice on Thursday. “We are all just trying to get better and are pushing each other. Once we get our pads on, we will really get to see the difference...
“I feel a ton better with the offense. I actually know what is going on, what the defense is doing and what I need to call and check out of everything.”
Even though Childress didn’t play last season, the son of former NFL defensive standout Ray Childress thinks he could have performed if needed.
“I think I would have been ready,” Childress said. “I don’t think we could have done as dynamic of stuff as Geno did with his checks and reads. I was not up there, but I think we could have operated well.”
Trickett has more experience than either of them. He played in nine games, starting two in 2011 for the Seminoles, throwing for 336 yards and three scores against Clemson. He also saw action in eight games last season, completing 22-of-34 passes for 272 yards.
“He has a lot of experience and knows what he is doing,” Childress said. “He has played in big games and has been through three years of college football, so he is a good guy to be around. I will see what tricks he can teach.”
Trickett, who has already graduated from Florida State, wasn’t expected to be the starter this season for the Seminoles so a change was made. He decided on West Virginia, having spent a significant part of his life in Morgantown when his father, Rick Trickett, was WVU’s offensive line coach under Rich Rodriguez.
Now in his third season in Morgantown, Millard can sense a different atmosphere around the Mountaineers with the most important position on the field up for grabs.
“Obviously the starting quarterback spot is still vacant, so there is definitely a different feel,” Millard said. “There is a whole new team out there this year than there was last year. There are new leaders, new opportunities for myself and a lot of other guys. There are a lot of positions that are available right now.”
That includes quarterback, with a decision pending as the season closes in the end of the August.
“Once we get the pads on in a few days and we can actually do some situational stuff, I think that things will clear up a little faster,” Millard said. “Right now we just have to go day-by-day.”
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There are other positions up for grabs as well, including running back and receiver.
Andrew Buie led the Mountaineers in rushing last season with 851 yards and seven touchdowns, but there is plenty of competition, including Charles Sims, a transfer from Houston, and highly-touted junior college transfer Dreamius Smith.
“There is definitely a lot of competition in the room, which is good. Who doesn’t want to play against good competition that will push you to be better,” Buie said. “We are just going in day-in-and-day-out and trying to work hard and push each other to make each other better.
“Good competition is always good and makes you better. I am just looking forward to being able to play, and whatever my role is, I am just going to do it to the best of my ability.”
Sims, like Trickett, was a late addition, having decided to transfer from Houston and landed in West Virginia. A definite all-league candidate, Sims ran for 851 yards and 11 scores last year for Houston in Conference USA.
“He is a great running back and has a good burst,” Smith said. “When you get the ball in his hands you can see that he can actually do stuff with it.
“We are going to work something out between him and me of course with maybe a big package back there, but regardless if he plays or I play, we are going to have a good season.”
Just don’t count out Smith, who will a big back similar to Sims.
“I knew when I first got here I wanted to be able to use my big size and use my speed at the same time,” Sims said. “I focused on that when I started workouts in the winter and transitioned in the summer. I believe that I can bring a lot of speed along with the power and vision to do whatever I can to help us out.”
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West Virginia also has to replace receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, which will be no easy chore. Ivan McCartney and Kevin White will do their best to fill those shoes.
McCartney actually left school for six months while his grandfather was ill, but has returned and is ready to contribute.
“I stayed in contact with the coaches. Once everything cleared up at home, it was just the right thing to do,” said McCartney, who likes the atmosphere revolving around the Mountaineers. “We are more as one. This team is more family oriented and everybody is hungry. We push each other; this is a team. That is the biggest difference from last year.”
White, a junior, agrees. He’s glad to be back on the field.
“It feels good, and I am loving it. There is a lot of competition out there, and it is fast-tempo, fast-paced,” said White, who was able to open some eyes with his performance in the spring. “It (spring) helped me a lot.
“If it wasn't for spring, I would probably be pretty deep on the depth chart. I know everything and know the plays. When I get the calls I do not have to think, I know what I have to do.”
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