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Hickman: Hard to handicap QB derby

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- In the three-man battle for West Virginia's starting quarterback spot, Ford Childress might be considered the long shot.

Yes, he's bigger and stronger than juniors Paul Millard and Clint Trickett. And because he's younger and still has four years of eligibility, that means he might have more potential to improve and grow in the position.

But he's also the only one of the three without an ounce of college football experience, which would seem to put him at a disadvantage as head coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson look for the best option for the here and now, not the future.

Don't think for a moment, though, that Childress is conceding anything.

"Obviously, I want to start right now,'' said the 6-foot-5, 234-pound redshirt freshman from Houston. "The whole reason I came here was because I thought I had a great opportunity to start for four years. And that's what I'm planning on doing.''

The next week will likely decide if he has a chance. The last few days might have proven that he does.

"Ford Childress continues to get better. He had his best day on Saturday since he's been here,'' Holgorsen said Monday. "We took about 45 live reps from the red zone and he had his best day. He made some really good decisions and good throws in the right situations to get the ball in the end zone.''

And that's what's going to separate the three - live reps in pressure situations. The offense last week went from simply running plays to putting the quarterback into situations. Instead of lining up and simply running what is called, the quarterback now has to adjust to those situations and to defensive alignments.

"The situational part of it is a whole different deal. Now, the thought process comes in,'' Dawson said. "You have to think your way through a game. We're working on red zone and goal-line stuff. We're working on third-down stuff. It's certain situations where if we're not necessarily in a great play, it's the quarterback's job to get us in a good play and make checks.''

Millard has been in the offense a year longer than Childress and has at least some practical experience, although never under real pressure. Trickett is new to the offense, but was in plenty of tough situations in two years playing - and occasionally starting - at Florida State.

But Childress knows what the coaches are looking for.

"I think someone who can lead the offense and have everyone else look at you and know that you're the guy who can step up and do it,'' Childress said. "It's going to challenge all of us to not even take one snap off. You have to be as good as you can be each snap and I think that's going to help us all tremendously.

"We all can make every throw. So it's more the mental differences.''

How much does actual game experience play into that? Well, it has to be a benefit to Millard and Trickett, but perhaps it's not a detriment to Childress. Although Trickett went out on the field first, all three quarterbacks got equal time at the position Monday during the first live action the media has been permitted to see.

"You can figure it out in practice,'' Holgorsen said. "Paul Millard has limited game experience and Clint Trickett has played in just a handful of games. I view them all the same. I don't view any of them with an upper hand to win the job based on whether they've played in a couple of games or not.

"I've said since day one that the guy that produces and plays the best in practices and the situations we put him in is going to be the guy that we go with in game one. So I don't take anything into account that has happened in games over the past couple of years. It's all based on the situations that we put them in.''

And so far, the results seem to be mixed.

"I would say Paul Millard makes the best decisions and the worst decisions,'' Holgorsen said. "He's gotten the most reps and is pretty comfortable. He'll still do some bonehead stuff, as they all do. Any time you have guys that don't have a lot of starts under their belt, they're going to make some good decisions and bad decisions.

"Clint Trickett has a presence to him. Every rep he takes, he gets better and does some good things. They all make good decisions at times, but because of inexperience they make poor decisions that get them in trouble. The guy that reduces the poor decisions will be the guy that wins the job. I think they're all capable of being pretty good.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1

 


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