WVU football: QB consistency a season-long problem
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Perhaps it's too simple to discuss West Virginia's expansive offensive problems this season and say things could have been very different if there was just one quarterback.
After all, this is a 4-7 team that's had interchanging issues with protecting the passer and catching passes, with blocking on the line and blocking on the perimeter, with running the ball and running routes and with simply protecting the football.
But it's probably true.
"I would hope to think that, but I can't give a 100-percent answer to that," West Virginia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "You'd hope that consistency at a lot of positions would make us better, but it's important at that position and it makes it tough to be a consistent offense without it. I'd like to think that'd be so, but I'm not going to sit here and give you a definite yes.
"Put it this way: If I had my options, I would rather have that."
Instead, the Mountaineers spent this final week of the season trying to pick a starting quarterback again. Whether because of injury or ineffective play, they did the same thing before the opener against William & Mary and before games against Georgia State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Kansas. Either Paul Millard or Clint Trickett will start Saturday's 4 p.m. game against Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) at Mountaineer Field.
The game will be televised by Fox Sports 1.
WVU is 2-4 with Trickett as the starter, 1-2 with Millard as the starter and 1-1 with Ford Childress as the starter. Millard lost his spot before the third game of the season to Childress, who tore his right pectoral muscle in a loss to Maryland and lost his spot to Trickett, who was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion against Texas and lost his spot to Millard against Kansas.
"It's hard because you're never going to point the finger at a kid, but everybody sees it," said running backs coach JaJuan Seider, a former WVU quarterback. "We've got deficiencies that we've got to work on in the offseason. That's with continuity, being around each other, being a vocal leader at that position. That's the key, especially in this offense.
"We're only as good as the quarterback. We've got the best running backs you probably can have under Dana Holgorsen in this offense. But when you don't have consistency at that position, it hurts you. We know it. Those guys know it. They take pride in it. They don't want to be out there and let the team down."
The Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) were in a similar spot with the three quarterbacks back in August, when Millard beat out Trickett and Childress was said to need more time, which would up being two weeks.
"I don't know if I feel better about it, but I do feel like our room needs to be a lot more consistent," Dawson said. "I need to do a better job getting them prepared and obviously they need to do a better job carrying over to the field the leadership we need out of that room.
"What we really need to focus on is that whenever things went bad, that's the guy who needs to be the spark plug, that's the guy that needs to be the catalyst to overcome the adversity. Right now, we don't have that."
That might be true, or it might be true that Dawson doesn't know that for sure.
He and the Mountaineers never got an extended look at Childress, a player the staff spent a lot of time and energy recruiting out of Houston two years ago and a redshirt freshman they were patient with at the start of the season to make sure he didn't play before he was fully prepared.
The Mountaineers have seen Millard for three seasons, 17 games, three starts, seven fumbles, six interceptions and four lost fumbles. They've seen Trickett start six straight games in his first season after playing two seasons as a backup and spot starter at Florida State, but he's also struggled to learn what's supposed to be an offense that's easy to consume and command.
What WVU knows of Childress is that he can light up an overmatched Georgia State and he is probably too proud to admit limitations when he's injured early in a start he'd worked so hard and so long to earn. Other than that, the Mountaineers know very little about the 6-foot-5, 235-pound son of former NFL all-pro Ray Childress.
"He's really the unknown factor in the deal because never got a chance to play," Dawson said.
Despite attempts to rehabilitate the injury and make it back in time to play again this season, Childress, who was in uniform two weeks ago against Kansas, won't play against Iowa State. Yet he still may be the future of the position because the Mountaineers thought and still think very highly of Childress, his skill and his potential, which flashed with a freshman record 359 passing yards and three scores against Georgia State.
"This is what I'll say about that: We started him against Georgia State for a reason," Dawson said. "We started him for a reason. At that point and with what he was doing, we thought dumping the reps on him was the best thing."
Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads, who has dealt with quarterback issues all season, has already named Saturday's starter, Grant Rohach, the first-team quarterback for the start of spring practice based on Rohach's play in his three starts. The Mountaineers are nowhere near the same luxury, but they are in no less need of such certainty and sooner rather than later.
Millard, Trickett and Childress can all come back next season. WVU also has a commitment from Baltimore quarterback William Crest in the 2014 recruiting class and is apparently in search of more help. Junior college quarterback Skyler Howard is supposed to visit WVU next weekend.
"We're not going to be as good offensively as we need to be leadership-wise or with consistency until we have one guy to look to that is the guy that leads this team," Dawson said. "That's a fact."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.