3 QBs vie to replace Geno Smith at West Virginia
By Paul Adkins
MORGANTOWN (AP) — The three quarterbacks competing to become Geno Smith’s heir at West Virginia have a combined 10 career touchdown passes.
Lack of production aside, coach Dana Holgorsen sees plenty of capable talent to choose from among Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, longtime Smith backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress.
Holgorsen, whose offenses have produced 4,000-yard passers in eight straight seasons, has indicated he’ll take his time in choosing a starter for the Aug. 31 season opener against William & Mary.
Trickett grew up in Morgantown while his dad, Rick, was the offensive line coach at West Virginia from 2001-06.
He also has the most game experience of the three quarterbacks with two career starts and 17 total appearances for the Seminoles. He’s completed 66 of 106 attempts for 947 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
Trickett graduated from Florida State in the spring and has two years of eligibility remaining.
“He’s good, he’s seasoned. He doesn’t get nervous,” Holgorsen said.
Millard has three TDs and three interceptions in 34 career pass attempts as the two-year backup to Smith, a three-year starter who owns nearly every passing record for the Mountaineers.
“We’re all fighting to be the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers,” Millard said. “We all have that same goal in mind, so it’s going to be competitive throughout. We just have to go in day in and day out and keep on the grind.”
Millard and Childress battled through the spring with neither winning the job outright. Trickett’s transfer was announced less than two weeks after West Virginia’s spring game.
The decision to transfer and play for West Virginia was a dream Trickett had for a long time.
“I wanted to come here out of high school,” Trickett said. “It didn’t really work out, didn’t really get recruited. It was a different offense then. So I went to Florida State and then Geno left. It’s a no brainer. I’m from here. I’m a West Virginia kid.”
West Virginia didn’t promise the starting job outright to him, which only fueled his interest.
“During the second recruiting process, some other schools were pretty quick to say ‘it’s yours if you want it.’ And I didn’t really like that,” Trickett said. “Because it’s college football. You’re going to have to compete wherever you go and I didn’t really trust what the other coaches were saying. I just trusted what Dana said. He was like ‘hey, I’m not promising you anything, but you’re going to get chances’, so that’s all I could ask for.”
With only a few full-pad practices so far, Holgorsen said there weren’t many observations to make other than assessing each player’s communication abilities and how they appeared to manage themselves out on the practice field.
“We’re just evaluating them running plays,” Holgorsen said. “Do they know how to communicate? Do they know what to do? And then when you put them in live settings that’s when you make decisions.”
Holgorsen said all three quarterbacks have dealt with any early pressure well.
“You can tell he’s (Trickett) got some game experience. Just by the calmness that he possesses,” Holgorsen said. “I think Clint can get in the mix to be the guy, because he has that in his personality. Ford and Paul possess that calmness right now, too. They understand what’s going on around them.”
The advantage for Millard is his familiarity with Holgorsen’s offense. He’s the only one of the three who’s taken snaps in a game for the Mountaineers.
“At the end of the day, we are all teammates and somebody is going to step up to lead this team,” Millard said. “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.”
Childress is the underdog in the quarterback race due to his lack of experience but he possesses a stronger arm than his counterparts.
“We are all just trying to get better and are pushing each other,” Childress said. “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.”
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