With a little over five months until West Virginia kicks off its 2014 season against the Alabama Crimson Tide, head coach Dana Holgorsen is facing a dilemma.
Tasked with picking up the pieces after the Mountaineers’ first losing season since 2001, Holgorsen must make a decision that could have a big impact on his future as head coach at West Virginia.
Much like it was heading into last season, the race for the starting quarterback position is up for grabs.
Though the names have changed – Riverside City College transfer Skyler Howard replaced Ford Childress – the competition is just as wide open.
With Clint Trickett sidelined during spring practice to recover from offseason shoulder surgery, the two main players in the race at this time are Howard and senior Paul Millard.
While West Virginia had plenty of weaknesses in 2013, the play of the Mountaineer quarterbacks was one of the most glaring.
Trickett, Millard and Childress were used interchangeably, and as a result of the overhaul at one of the most important positions on the field, the West Virginia offense looked out of sync all season.
Holgorsen knows what he is getting from Trickett and Millard. Both showed flashes of competence at times, but by and large, the two signal callers were erratic at best.
Although he lacks experience in the Big 12 Conference, Howard should get the starting nod to kick off the season.
Known as a dual-threat while at Riverside, Howard could bring something to the table Trickett and Millard can’t offer.
While at Riverside in 2013, Howard completed 67.4 percent of his passes, threw for 3,151 yards, 33 touchdowns and just six picks. He was the team’s fourth-leading rusher with 343 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
In a league like the Big 12, where teams live and die by launching the ball all over the field, having a subpar quarterback group can kill a team’s chances.
Howard, along with four-star recruit William Crest, have the potential to restore West Virginia’s reputation of a constantly threatening “Air Raid” offense.
Because Crest won’t be able to practice with the team until he enrolls during the summer, Howard has a leg up on the competition.
While there are sure to be some growing pains, as one would expect with any quarterback in his first year in a new system, Howard’s athleticism and playmaking potential make him the best option West Virginia has at this time.
In a year that will be crucial for Holgorsen’s future, he may have some reservations in placing his faith in a first-year player. Considering what his other options are, however, the choice should be clear.