MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen watched with a certain sense of nostalgia Monday night while Geno Smith was throwing for three touchdowns and leading the New York Jets on a game-ending field goal drive to beat Atlanta, 30-28."Yeah, it would be nice to have him,'' the West Virginia coach said of the quarterback who was his starter the last two seasons. "It would be nice to have any of the last six [starting quarterbacks] I've had.''He doesn't, of course. What Holgorsen has now instead are three quarterbacks, none of whom have really taken command and proven they are clearly the best even to run West Virginia's offense, much less do so at the level of Smith or any of the other elite quarterbacks Holgorsen has coached over the last decade.As the Mountaineers go through their bye week, however, Holgorsen is far from conceding that none of them can reach that level.
"Who knows which one of these guys that are on our team right now can end up improving to the point where they can be the next guy,'' Holgorsen said. "They've just got to keep playing.''For the time being, junior Clint Trickett seems to remain the frontrunner. He's started the last two games, but with staggeringly different results - a 30-21 upset of then-No. 11 Oklahoma State two weeks ago and a 73-42 trouncing at now-No. 15 Baylor last Saturday.At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Holgorsen sounded at times alternately committed to Trickett in the job and remaining open-minded about it.As for the committed part, Holgorsen said that during the off week Trickett would be held out of practice in order to allow his injured throwing shoulder - as well as other sore body parts - to heal before the Mountaineers host Texas Tech a week from Saturday."We'll give him the whole week to rehab and strengthen it so he's a hundred percent next week,'' Holgorsen said of the Florida State transfer. "I don't know if that's going to happen for sure, but we'll give him this week off and let him rest and let him strengthen that shoulder to get him back on Monday.''When asked, though, if Trickett was entrenched as his starter, Holgorsen flatly said that he wasn't. He didn't mention Paul Millard, who was the starter in the first two games and relieved Trickett several times at Baylor, but he did point to redshirt freshman Ford Childress."I'm not prepared to say [that the job is absolutely Trickett's] because I don't think Ford did anything to flat-out lose the job,'' Holgorsen said.Childress was the starter in WVU's third and fourth games, a rout of Georgia Tech and a humbling 37-0 loss to Maryland in Baltimore. He might have started the next week against Oklahoma State, but was injured in the loss to Maryland and replaced by Trickett."I've liked Ford's mentality. The guy just tore his [pectoral] muscle,'' Holgorsen said. "It's not anybody's fault. He just has to let it heal and get him back on the practice field and see how he continues to progress.''Both Trickett and Childress have had their ups and downs, although it's difficult to compare the two. Childress threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns in the first college football game he played, but the opposition was the worst team in college football, Georgia State. A week later he threw for just 62 yards and threw interceptions that handed Maryland two touchdowns.Trickett made all kinds of clutch plays in sparking the win over Oklahoma State, but then was at the controls for the rout at Baylor. He is completing an awful 41.2 percent of his passes, but has been the only quarterback to provide a real spark.
Millard, meanwhile, has the best completion percentage and quarterback rating, has thrown only one interception (the others have three each) and is the only truly healthy one. But he also has failed to move the offense except for a couple of drives against Baylor's reserves when the game was long out of hand.To listen to Holgorsen, any quarterback decisions in the short term will be between Trickett and Childress."You look at Clint and Ford, they've played two games in a Mountaineer uniform. They've got to continue to get better,'' Holgorsen said. "It's unfortunate that both those guys are dealing with injuries, but they have to continue to improve. And I have all the confidence in the world in those two guys that they will continue to improve.''Until or unless that happens, however, it's not doing West Virginia's offense any good."It's a dynamic I don't like and it' a dynamic that is not beneficial to your football team, beneficial to your offense when you have an offense that has so many new parts, so many inexperienced players,'' Holgorsen said. "It's not the way I want it to be, but the reality is that we've played six games and we've had three quarterbacks start two games each. They're all guys that just haven't played very much and for whatever reasons, whether it's injuries or how they've practiced or how they've played in games, we've got to keep evaluating them.''Again, though, Holgorsen sounded like Trickett was still his choice.
"Clint played really well against Oklahoma State and played very average against Baylor. Whether it was his shoulder or whether it wasn't his shoulder, I don't know. I haven't coached him long enough to figure it out,'' Holgorsen said. "I do like his grit and I do like how he's toughed it out. He played through it in a challenging environment and a challenging situation and he didn't just turn it down. We're really happy to see that.''Happy, but apparently not convinced. Assuming both Trickett and Childress emerge from the off week in good shape physically, they could still go into next week competing.Maybe."I'll go with Clint unless Ford does something in practice,'' Holgorsen said. "And then we'll go from there.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.