In spring 2013, the West Virginia football team had something that it hadn’t since before the Pat White era in Morgantown – a true-blue starting quarterback competition.
With less than two months until the 2014 spring game, there isn’t any doubt that for a second consecutive year, there will be an entire host of viable candidates battling it out for the starting quarterback job of the Mountaineers.
But one aspect WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, in particular, said he hopes will end up quite different from a year ago is just how that quarterback battle concludes.
“I told them throughout last spring and really throughout fall camp – it really isn’t up to us (the coaches) to pick a quarterback,” Dawson said. “I know that sounds weird, but we’re going to give them the opportunity. Win the job. Make our job easy.
“And I think that’s one thing that really as the course of last year’s camp went through, nobody made our job easy. Nobody rose up. And so that’s why we probably played as many kids as we played. We were trying to find who the best guy was, and nobody was sitting there raising their game up.”
Senior Clint Trickett is considered by many to be the favorite to win the job, despite the fact he almost surely won’t participate in a single spring practice or the spring game April 12. He is still in recovery from his Jan. 13 shoulder surgery to repair a Grade 2 sprain of his AC joint, a torn labrum and a damaged rotator cuff – all injuries he sustained in WVU’s upset win over No. 11 Oklahoma State Sept. 28 and continued to play with for much of the season.
Trickett completed nearly 53 percent of his passes for team-bests of 1,605 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight games played in the 2013 season and is expected to be fully recovered by summer workouts.
Fellow senior signal caller Paul Millard, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and six scores of his own in the 2013 season, is the only other returning quarterback who’s actually taken snaps in a WVU uniform following former starter Ford Childress’s withdrawal from West Virginia and enrollment in Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, in January.
Dawson actually made a point earlier this week to confirm Trickett and Millard were indeed a bit ahead of some of the newcomers – like JUCO-transfer Skyler Howard or quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback-again Logan Moore – because of their seniority and experience if nothing else, but also made it clear each quarterback would at least have an opportunity to show what they can do.
“Some of them are going to be ahead mentally of the other ones because they have a lot of banked reps,” Dawson said. “But it’s up to the person, really. How much do you want to be the quarterback? If you want to be it bad enough, you’ll have your tail up here a lot, and you’ll ask a lot of questions and you’ll get to know it. You can learn it if you take it upon yourself.
“It’s just like any other profession. And ultimately, it does comes down to reps. The real learning, the real motor memory of the offense and the actual executing the play comes down to reps.
“But wherever the unknowns lie, we’re going to make those known. What I mean by that is you’ve got a couple kids now that haven’t had a whole lot of reps. Well, we’re going to give them reps and see what they can do. And if they prove they can do it, great. If they don’t, then we’ve got to find who can.”
Members of the WVU faithful may be able to get a small glimpse of the upcoming quarterback battle in the coming months as spring practices for the Mountaineers start March 2 and will include three open sessions in which fans are invited and encouraged to attend:– March 22 in Wheeling, March 29 in Morgantown and April 12, also the date of the annual spring game, in Morgantown.