Bring it on
MORGANTOWN - When Paul Millard and Ford Childress finished spring practice in late April, their battle for West Virginia's starting quarterback job was pretty much neat and tidy. The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, freshman Chavas Rawlins, was obviously not a factor after being wholly ignored during the spring game.
Less than a month later, neither had so much as taken a snap or thrown a pass, but the competition was dramatically different. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett had been wooed back to his hometown after deciding to transfer from Florida State. Rawlins, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, packed up and left.
If the presence of Trickett in the mix deflated either of the holdovers, however, they won't admit it. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Trickett has jumped into the mix on seemingly even terms right from the start and, given the lukewarm performances of Millard and Childress during the spring, might even have the upper hand.
He's certainly getting a closer look from the coaches as practice begins, if for no other reason than they want to see what he can do.
Again, though, if that bothers the other two they hide it well.
"Honestly, it really doesn't change a whole lot for me,'' Millard said. "I'm a competitive guy. I love competition. So I was just excited for the opportunity. When you bring another guy in, the competition just rises even more.''
Trickett, though, isn't the only infusion of veteran talent on West Virginia's offense. West Virginia's running backs face a similar situation with the arrival of Houston transfer Charles Sims.
"I honestly don't care,'' Buie said. "I'm me, regardless. Other players shouldn't change how you feel about your game.''
There are obvious differences between adding a quarterback and adding a running back, of course. The addition of Sims, while it might take some playing time away from other backs, simply adds depth to what was already one of the deepest positions on the team. Buie, Dustin Garrison and junior college transfer Dreamius Smith aren't likely to sit because of Sims.
At quarterback, though, only one is likely to play. So from the moment Trickett arrived in May and began working out in the weight room and with the receivers, it dramatically raised the competition level.
"It just makes you try to work harder in the weight room and work harder during 7-on-7s,'' Childress said of the summer months with fresh competition at the position. "You try to win that every day.''
All three of the quarterbacks have their pluses. In fact, Childress probably cut to the heart of their differences quite succinctly.
"Clint is probably the most athletic of all of us and has the most game experience,'' Childress said. "And then Paul has been in the offense the longest and kind of knows what's going on.''
"I'm just a younger guy that has a lot more to learn and can get better that way,'' he said. "I've got more room to grow. There's not really a ceiling for me yet.''
If coach Dana Holgorsen has a preference at this stage, he's certainly not saying. At least through the first three days of practice, all three quarterbacks figure to split the reps evenly. Perhaps the real work begins Monday, when Holgorsen's three-day installation begins repeating itself, the team is really into its first full-scale padded practices and the game begins resembling football instead of walk-throughs.
Already, though, Trickett seems to have impressed both Holgorsen and the other quarterbacks.
"He's just a veteran guy who knows what to expect and what's going on,'' Childress said. "He's been on a successful team, so he knows how to carry himself.''
As does Sims, who has just one year of eligibility remaining - Trickett has two - and transferred essentially so that he could spend that year showcasing his ability at a higher level than Houston. Sims is already considered one of the top five backs available in next year's NFL draft, so he's not at WVU to sit and watch.
And that's just fine with Buie, who was the team's leading rusher a year ago.
"There's good competition in the room and you want to play against good competition. That's what makes you better,'' Buie said. "It's good to have good competition.''
"It puts a chip on your shoulder when a coach obviously feels like he needs to bring in another guy. But regardless of that, you still have to go out there and do your job and try to get better every day.''
Of course, Trickett and Sims are trying to fit into an offense that is being almost completely rebuilt as far as personnel. With the quarterback, the top three receivers and the middle of the line all gone from last season, there are plenty of job openings and plenty of candidates to fill them. The two new guys just add to the pool.
"Nobody on our offense is proven,'' Buie said. "Even if you were at another school and you made plays, they still haven't made those plays here. We have a lot to prove as an offense, not just in the running back room or the quarterback room or the wide receivers.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1