Despite the fact that West Virginia was able to put a much more competent defense on the field in 2013, the Mountaineers were still a far cry from being a competitive team in the Big 12 last season.
The biggest reason? There is simply no way you can compete in this prolific offensive league without a capable signal caller, something the Mountaineers indeed desperately lacked last season.
In fact, three different quarterbacks combined to throw just 16 touchdowns for WVU last year. That’s two and a half times less scoring tosses than what Geno Smith had in 2012.
Of course, nobody expected Paul Millard, Clint Trickett or Ford Childress to instantaneously start putting up stats like the Mountaineers’ most prolific passing quarterback in school history, but most did expect that collectively they would at least be able to put some points on the board via the air in 2013.
Instead, those three players combined for the third lowest passing touchdown total in the conference. Only TCU and Kansas, who also happened to be the two worst teams in regards to total offense a year ago, found the end zone less times through the air.
The Mountaineers also ranked No. 3 in the conference with 16 total interceptions, and not a single West Virginia quarterback had a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio last season.
This is the biggest reason why the Mountaineers regularly faltered down the stretch in close contests last season – after their defense would keep the opposition close throughout much the game, the offense was simply unable and incapable of rewarding them with a late score through the air.
There’s no questioning that Charles Sims was indeed one of the best offensive players in the entire conference, but when you’re facing a deficit late, even a player as talented as Sims becomes somewhat limited out of the backfield. You have to be able to make plays through the air, and WVU simply didn’t have the ability or personnel to do that in 2013.
The thing is, there’s a chance this personnel could change somewhat drastically this coming season.
Yes, at this point Trickett, Millard and Childress are all expected to return for the Mountaineers, but WVU is also already bringing in at least two completely new quarterbacks in true freshman William Crest from Baltimore, and junior JUCO transfer Skyler Howard of Riverside, Calif.
It should also be noted that both Crest and Howard are dual-threat quarterbacks, a distinct difference from any of the returning quarterbacks on WVU’s roster. Trickett, widely considered the most mobile of the group, finished 2013 with a net of -29 rushing yards.
It also dictates that there’s a good chance at least one of the quarterbacks that saw action for the Mountaineers a season ago will transfer out to pursue another opportunity with the eligibility they have left.
Although it’s fairly difficult to imagine either Trickett or Childress leaving after both were somewhat hampered by injuries throughout last season, I absolutely wouldn’t be surprised to see Millard perhaps pursue another opportunity to start his senior year at a smaller school. I simply think we’ve already seen Millard’s ceiling, as far his potential to play the quarterback position.
One thing is for sure, Holgorsen and the Mountaineers must get
better and more consistent play out of their quarterback(s) next season to have any chance of competing or really even just being relevant in the Big 12 in 2014.