Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Eye on College Football examines what current hot topic the fans of one BCS team are obsessing over -- rationally or not. Today's team: the West Virginia Mountaineers .
What they're talking about...the quarterback competition. Replacing Geno Smith was a challenge for West Virginia in 2013. Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress each got a chance under center during the season, but the Mountaineers offense was frustratingly inconsistent throughout the season. The trio combined for 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, with only a few highlights (wins against Oklahoma State and TCU) and many lowlights (a 31-19 loss at Kansas and 37-0 shutout loss against Maryland).
Trickett was named the first-string quarterback on the post-spring depth chart, with Logan Moore (a wide receiver in 2013), Paul Millard and junior college transfer Skyler Howard listed together on the No. 2 line. West Virginia fans see a crowded quarterback competition that is about to add dual-threat quarterback William Crest and wonder who, if anyone, might redshirt during the 2014 season.
What they're saying is...will Skyler Howard redshirt, and what does that mean? Over at EerSports, the West Virginia 247Sports site, the discussion started with the report (via BlueGoldSports.com) that junior college transfer Skyler Howard would redshirt in 2014 to preserve a wasted year of eligibility. Fans did not shy from weighing in on Howard's prospects and the current state of Dana Holgorsen's quarterbacks.
-- Well, we saw last year how hard it could be for an incoming QB to learn the system, I guess our offense is just very hard to parse and having a year to learn it is the best scenario? If so I'd guess Crest will redshirt too
-- I'm at least willing to give Trickett a shot. Most of his problems last year were due to his knowledge of the offense. If he can settle down a bit I think we have a shot. If I remember correctly he even admitted that sometimes last year he had no idea what the signals were so he just snapped the ball and winged it playground style.
-- In a perfect world, Trickett would recover from surgery, take hold of the starting position (the way we thought he did vs. OSU) and stay healthy and perform well all year. Millard/Moore would provide solid backups when needed. Crest and Howard would redshirt and duke it out for the starting spot next season. The TBD 2015 QB recruit would redshirt and WVU would FINALLY be back on a normal QB cycle. But that's all the "perfect world" scenario. If Trickett gets hurt or doesn't perform well, it could throw the whole thing off.
-- Millard ran for his life and threw passes off his back foot, Trick got hurt, Childress got hurt. Please God, since we evidentially will not have mobility at the QB spot this year, please send us a group of OLinemen with some talent, thanks.
-- I take it as a sign that Clint Trickett is gonna be a pretty good ball player for us next year. My recent positivity thinks it'll lead us to a decent season. Quite frankly though, this is bold. The fact is, Millard can't lead this team so Clint is the guy, Dana recognizes that.
-- By redshirting Howard, we're getting 3 years of him playing at his highest level rather than 1 year of winging it on the field as he tries to learn the plays (cough Trickett cough). To me, if we play him this year and he doesn't know the playbook 100%, we're wasting a year of his eligibility. Then, next year we'll have Howard (RS sophomore with a full year to learn the playbook) Crest (RS freshman with experience) and Lamar Jackson (hopefully) fighting for the #1 spot. No matter who wins IMO, we'll have a quality QB, and a leader for the program for the next few years.
What we think is...a healthy Trickett and deep backfield could be the ticket to opening up the offense. Trickett has enough experience that, given time to recover from shoulder surgery and continue adapting to Holgorsen's offense, fans should expect more consistent play in 2014. The Mountaineers head coach indicated earlier this week (via WVIllustrated) that Trickett might finally be healthy after sitting out the spring.
“I really haven't even seen him yet,” Holgorsen said of Trickett. “We can't do anything with our guys with the ball. So we can meet with them and talk to them. I love his mentality right now. He's excited about understanding the offense right now and understanding what we're trying to get accomplished – and being healthy. It's been quite some time since he's been healthy.”
If the Mountaineers are solid up front, they could make the rushing attack a more significant part of the offense -- among Big 12 teams in 2013, only Texas Tech and TCU ran the ball less than WVU. Dreamius Smith, Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie, Wendell Smallwood and Pitt transfer Rushel Shell (a former five-star prospect) fill out the depth chart at a crowded-but-dynamic running back position.