MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia will reach the halfway point of its 15 spring practices this weekend without one key element in any successful football team - a starting quarterback.That's actually no surprise, of course, given that Paul Millard and Ford Childress are essentially starting from scratch in their battle to replace Geno Smith.But even offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson finds the closeness of the competition startling."They're even,'' Dawson said of the two. "There's never been a quarterback race more even than this one.''And at least for now, it's apparently kind of ugly, too."They're doing the same things good, the same things bad. One day one of them might do things slightly better, but to be honest it's probably a lot more bad than good,'' Dawson said. "That's just the way it is. They're growing. They're learning."To expect them to be in a place where we can send them out there to perform on Saturday, we're not there yet. I think everybody understands that we're not there yet. We're dealing with guys that are inexperienced. But it's not the only position we're inexperienced at. Thank goodness for spring ball, right. Fifteen practices. We'll take it. We're not in any hurry to get on the field yet on Saturdays.''Millard is a junior who has spent the past two seasons as Smith's only real backup, but never was called on to play in critical situations. Childress is a redshirt freshman who has been in the program now for a year."They still make inexperienced mistakes every day,'' Dawson said. "And the only way you correct that is with experience.''
In a way, Dawson would prefer that he had his quarterback right now. It certainly would make preparing one for the season easier.Then again, there's nothing like competition to bring out the best in the two."I like that [dead heat] right now, but eventually you want it clear cut,'' Dawson said. "If you hog-tied me and put me under a fire right now and made me make a decision, chances are it would be the wrong one because it's just so close. Hopefully at some point one of them rises up."But this is going to make them better. You can't be complacent when the competition is that close. If either one of them gets complacent, then the other one will win the job.''That's not likely to happen soon, though."For us to even have a quarterback named at the end of spring is probably far fetched,'' Dawson said. "We've got a whole spring, a whole summer and a whole camp. And the competition is only going to make them better.''
BRIEFLY: Offensive lineman Pat Eger, one of the leading candidates to win the open job at center, apparently wasn't seriously hurt when he injured his surgically-repaired ankle at the end of Tuesday's practice. He didn't practice Thursday, but rode a stationary bike and did a few other things during practice with his ankle taped.Walk-on Logan Moore is trying wide receiver instead of quarterback. He made the move this week after practicing last fall and early this spring with the QBs. Moore, who is from Fairmont and spent a year as the starting quarterback at Fairmont State, has never played any other position.
"I asked him if he was ready to block and he said he'd never done it,'' receivers coach Lonnie Galloway said. "But he's willing to do anything to get on the field.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1