MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It didn't take Dana Holgorsen nearly as long as he thought it might this week to pick a starting quarterback. And when he did, it was a surprise.Holgorsen, speaking on his weekly radio show Thursday night, announced that redshirt freshman Ford Childress would start Saturday when West Virginia plays Georgia State at Mountaineer Field.That's a surprise of sorts because a week before the season began, Holgorsen eliminated Childress from the competition to start against William & Mary, instead giving all of the practice reps to Paul Millard and Clint Trickett. Millard started that game, as well as the next week against Oklahoma.But when Millard didn't perform to Holgorsen's liking, he opened up the competition again this week and included Childress, who had not taken more than a handful of meaningful snaps since the week of Aug. 19. The team didn't begin practicing until Tuesday, but by Wednesday night Childress had apparently risen above the other two. Holgorsen said that by Thursday Childress got 80 percent of the first-team practice reps and handled it well enough to earn the job."It's his time, it's his job and we're going to see what he can do," Holgorsen said. "We opened it up on Tuesday and Ford took it and ran with it. He threw the ball as well as he's ever thrown it and he managed the huddle really good."Holgorsen said he will go into Saturday's game with the idea that Childress is his starting quarterback and his only quarterback. He said he won't use Millard or Trickett just to be rotating them, but instead wants to stick with Childress.That could change based on Childress' performance, of course, but the plan is to go with Childress so that he's "not afraid to make a mistake.''Childress is a 6-foot-5, 234-pounder from Houston who has never taken a college snap. He arrived at WVU in January of 2012 after graduating early from high school and went through spring practice. He redshirted during the 2012 season and competed with Millard for the job in spring this season. Trickett joined the fray this summer when he transferred from Florida State.Millard has played all but two series in WVU's first two games. Trickett quarterbacked those two series, during the second quarter of the opener.
Holgorsen admitted that he nearly used Trickett again in last week's 16-7 loss at Oklahoma, but never pulled the trigger.Both Millard and Trickett are juniors. Millard was 40 for 66 for 455 yards passing in the first two games, throwing a touchdown and an interception and losing a fumble in each game.More than two weeks ago, when Holgorsen pared the competition down to just Millard and Trickett, he warned not to forget about Childress. Someone in that trio had to be eliminated during game preparation week because it's impossible to give three quarterbacks meaningful reps, and Childress was the one who was tossed out because he was the only one without any prior college experience.He said at the time that could change quickly once the season began if one of the two juniors did not rise above the crowded field.Holgorsen also said he liked Childress' attitude since being tossed out of the quarterback race the last few weeks. Instead of moping or even transferring, he kept working."I loved his attitude on the sidelines last week. He was probably the most active guy we had," Holgorsen said. "I think he sat there on the sidelines and said, 'I think I can do this.'"
Childress, whose father Ray was an All-Pro defensive lineman for the Houston Oilers, is believed to be the first freshman ever to start at quarterback for Holgorsen as either a head coach or an offensive coordinator. This will also be the first time in those roles that Holgorsen has ever made a quarterback switch during a season.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.