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Full-contact practices a hit with Holgorsen, QBs

By Dave Hickman, Staff writer

MORGANTOWN — If Dana Holgorsen found out nothing else about the three quarterbacks he had available during spring practices, it was how they performed under live conditions.

Truth is, he probably didn’t find out a whole lot more.

He already knew what one of the three, senior Paul Millard, could do after watching him for three years.

Skyler Howard, the junior college transfer, spent most of the spring simply learning what to do more so than showing what he could do.

And the same is pretty much true for walk-on Logan Moore who, while he’s been in the program going on two years, has mainly run other teams’ offenses with the scout team or dabbled at receiver.

And, of course, he learned nothing about his other two quarterback candidates because senior Clint Trickett watched practice after undergoing shoulder surgery and William Crest is still in high school in Baltimore.

“It isn’t what we wanted,’’ Holgorsen said. “But you can’t change it.’’

But actually Holgorsen did change things up just a bit to better evaluate the three quarterbacks who were available. During the final six of 15 spring practices, Holgorsen took the gold, no-contact jerseys off of Millard, Howard and Moore. Instead of sitting back in the pocket or rolling out with no fear, they were subject to 300-pound defensive linemen and blitzing linebackers and safeties.

And that’s highly unusual for spring.

“They weren’t making the progress that we wanted,” Holgorsen said. “And so [for those last six practices] we said, ‘Hey, let’s let them get hit.’ The sense of urgency picked up.”

Of course it did. And apparently the quarterbacks didn’t mind at all.

“No, why shouldn’t we get hit?’’ said Millard. “It’s part of the game. Other teams are going to hit us.’’

What Holgorsen learned from the exercise isn’t quite clear except that he could perhaps tell how Howard handles a crowded pocket. Again, he’s seen Millard in actual game conditions and Moore on scout teams where he is fair game.

If nothing else, though, he enjoyed it.

“I thought it was fun,” Holgorsen said. “It’s fun watching those guys get hit.’’

The change also served to better prepare West Virginia’s defense. Instead of having to tip-toe around the quarterbacks and merely assume that when a play was whistled dead that they would have gotten to the quarterback, the defenders actually had to get them.

“It was really good for our defense to see that,’’ Holgorsen said. “I mean, how many teams are we going to see that run their quarterbacks?’’

Beyond finding out how the three quarterbacks reacted to pressure, Holgorsen didn’t find out enough to make a decision on his quarterback for next fall because of the absence of two of the contenders, including the one — Trickett — who might be the best bet given that he started seven games a year ago and presumably will be healthy.

But while narrowing the field to one is the goal, it’s not a bad thing having a deep pool of contenders. Holgorsen doesn’t want to have to use more than one quarterback because he did that last year with fairly disastrous results.

“I’d never done that before and I think we’d all agree that’s not the answer,’’ Holgorsen said. “But if you look across the country, we weren’t the only team in that situation. Everybody in the Big 12 was playing a couple of different quarterbacks for a variety of reasons.

“If you want to win a championship, if you want to win a championship and go to a great bowl game or the playoff or whatever it is, then your second-team quarterback’s got to be able to go in there and he’s got to be able to win games. Now we have guys that have taken reps and guys who know what to do and have continuity with the rest of the guys. And so I think it’s going to be better than it was a year ago.’’

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


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